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House OKs bill to increase eligibility for Xcel’s solar rewards program

More people could be eligible for Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards Program.

HF3232, as amended, sponsored by Rep. Marion O'Neill (R-Maple Lake), passed the House on a 79-42 vote Wednesday and was sent to the Senate, where Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound) is the sponsor.

The bill would increase the maximum capacity of solar energy systems eligible for Xcel’s incentives from 20 kilowatts to 40 kilowatts, and would allow those systems to be counted toward Xcel’s solar energy standard for small solar.

During a House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee meeting in March, Reid LeBeau, representing Ideal Energies, said the bill is corresponding policy language “that we need” after the Made in Minnesota Solar Program was repealed last year. That program provided incentives for projects up to 40 kilowatts, while Xcel’s Solar Rewards program was for projects up to 20 kilowatts – this bill closes that gap.

The bill would also allow any unspent appropriations for the Solar Rewards Program at the end of this calendar year be available for spending next year. If there’s still money left after that, it would be rolled back into the Renewable Development Account or given back to customers.

Some DFL members – Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls) and Rep. Erin Maye Quade (DFL-Apple Valley), who are both co-sponsors on the bill, and House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) – said although they’re in favor of increasing the capacity for systems eligible for the incentive program, they have a problem with what happens with any leftover appropriations. Wagenius said there was potential to help low-income Minnesotans benefit from solar, but that potential wasn’t met.

Language similar to HF3232 is also included in the omnibus agriculture, environment, jobs and energy, and state government bill. That bill – HF4099/ SF3656*, sponsored by Rep. Jim Knoblach (R-St. Cloud) and Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center) – is expected to be voted on by the full House on Thursday.  

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