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Energy and climate division lays out its proposed appropriations

The House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division listens to a nonpartisan staff walk-through of its omnibus finance bill April 2. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Over almost three months of hearings, the House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division developed a wish list for renewable energy projects that moved closer to becoming a to-do list when the omnibus energy and climate policy bill, HF1833, was approved by the division last Thursday.

Now, the conversation has turned to how to pay for it.

Introduced Tuesday, HF1986, as amended, would appropriate $26.2 million from the General Fund to the Department of Commerce and the Public Utilities Commission for energy resource operating expenses and various projects. Gov. Tim Walz recommended a budget of $24.8 million for those purposes.

Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls), the division chair, is the sponsor.

But the big difference between the House proposal and the governor’s recommendations stems from one category: Whereas Walz recommended $30.1 million be spent from the state's Renewable Development Fund over the 2020-21 biennium, the House bill would spend $63.6 million from that fund over the same period.

So what’s the Renewable Development Fund? It’s an account set up by Xcel Energy as the result of a 1994 law concerning dry cask storage for waste produced by the state’s nuclear power plants. The more waste Xcel stores, the more money it puts into the account, which funds grants for renewable energy projects. As the fund has evolved, the Legislature and governor have become increasingly involved in earmarking the appropriations, with the Department of Commerce responsible for their oversight.

The big difference between the governor’s recommendations for 2020-21 Renewable Development Fund spending and the totals found in HF1986 is that the governor’s proposal is limited to one new project ($20 million to help convert public schools to solar energy), while the House bill has 13 projects.

“Solar on Schools” is the largest appropriation in the House bill ($16 million), while other major outlays would be for electric vehicle purchase rebates ($6.9 million); $6 million each to the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State system for their transitions to renewable energy sources; and $5 million to assist the Prairie Island Indian Community in becoming a “net zero energy community.” It also includes one appropriation for Fiscal Year 2019, $5 million to the Metropolitan Council for the purchase of electric buses.

The bill also includes $56.8 million in appropriations for the Petrofund, or Petroleum Tank Release Cleanup Fund, the same total recommended by the governor.

On Thursday, the division is scheduled to entertain amendments before expected approval and referring it to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The Senate's omnibus energy bill is SF1692, as amended, sponsored by Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound). It awaits action by the Senate Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee.

What’s in the bill?

The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus energy and climate finance bill:


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