In the 2017 year MnSEIA will be undertaking several policy programs at the state Legislature, at state agencies, with our members and in tandem with other like-minded organizations. Although the following is subject to change, below is what has happened in 2017 and what we are hoping to further accomplish in the second half of this year.
A 2017 Legislative Session Recap:
This was not an easy legislative session, but MnSEIA’s work and the support of our members did significantly impact the final outcome. While the cooperative bill and the Made in Minnesota repealer bill were ultimately passed, we were able to substantially modify their outcome.
The cooperative bill, HF 234, was originally aimed at eliminating the Public Utilities Commission’s control over the cooperative utilities in full and gave the cooperatives complete control over their customer complaint processes. MnSEIA and our members were able to push back and secure two gubernatorial vetoes on this bill, which substantially altered the final bill’s verbiage.
Now the bill will allow for the Cooperative Fee docket (docket 15-512) to go forward as the Commission’s last investigation over the co-ops regarding net-metering issues. Systems that are over 20 MW can still file disputes with the Commission. Moreover, if a customer has a complaint and the cooperative no longer wants to be under Commission jurisdiction, then the cooperative is required to mediate with the customer. Although retaining Commission jurisdiction was the goal, these are substantial improvements over the original bill proffered by the cooperatives.
Similarly HF 235 was heavily altered because of MnSEIA staff and member involvement. The original bill was designed to eliminate all Made in Minnesota funding from 2017 on. This would have included this year’s funding cycle and all of the 2017 submitted applications would have been voided. It also would have eliminated the Renewable Development Fund.
Due primarily to our members work in the Senate we were able to stall the bill until the 2017 Made in Minnesota Lottery was completed and the funding was allocated. This alone saved $10 million in funding and a significant sunk cost for participating MnSEIA members and their customers. While the Made in Minnesota program was eliminated, we were able to secure an extension and expansion of the Solar Rewards Incentive Program.
Originally, Solar Rewards would have ended after 2018. It has now been expanded to 2021 and the funding has been increased to the following: $15 Million in 2018, $10 Million in 2019, $10 Million in 2020 and $5 Million in 2021. With another legislative cycle coming at the end of 2018, we will have another opportunity to expand the Solar Reward program further with hopefully a more solar friendly state legislature.
There were two other bills that we were tracking and that we did do some work on. One is the Residential PACE bill. While Residential PACE has been suspended until a working group approves some consumer protections, we have inserted ourselves onto that working group and have worked diligently to increase the number of residential PACE advocates on the working group. We hope to have Residential PACE operating again by this time next year.
The other solar related policy passed in the final omnibus bill was the Minnesota Power and Otter Tail Power Small-Scale Solar Carve-Out increase. Now 20kW systems in Minnesota Power’s and Otter Tail Power’s service territory and Community Solar Garden subscriptions can count towards their Small Scale Carve-Out goals. MnSEIA took a generally neutral viewpoint on this bill as our members had divergent opinions on the policy due to Otter Tail’s admittance to procuring Renewable Energy Credits in lieu of incentivizing solar in their service territory if this change is not made.
But one change we did make to this policy with the help of our allies was to negotiate the removal of a line that would have allowed the utilities to make a “good-faith effort” at the Public Utilities Commission, instead of having the standard remain a standard. We and our allies pushed back against this language and encouraged the utilities to at the very least follow through on their threat to procure RECs in lieu of incentivizing solar.
Ongoing work at the Public Utilities Commission:
Community Solar Gardens
- We will attend and help facilitate monthly S*RC Working Group Meetings, as well as, participate in Dockets 13-867; 15-825; & 15-786. Our work will center on developing a Community Solar Residential adder for Xcel's CSG program.
Value of Solar
- We will comment when necessary and appropriate in Docket 14-65.
Cooperative Fee Work
- We will fight the cooperative fees at the Commission level in Docket 16-512 until the investigation is completed in December 2017.
Xcel's Green Tariff Program
- We will comment when necessary and appropriate to ensure the value of solar is not diminished in Docket 15-985.
- We will work in docket 15-115 to ensure that a fair market value is aprised to solar capacity sent to our state's Investor Owned Utilities.
- We will continue to represent the industry during PUC stakeholder meetings and informational sessions for docket 16-521.
Other Policy Related Work:
- We will continue to attend Solar Minnesota Meetings in order to provide industry information to contractors.
- We will continue to collaborate with our 501c3 "sister non-profit organization" the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Project and further their efforts to help customers push back against law-breaking utilities.