This week we passed three bills that provide energy stability and affordability in our state. Here is a brief summary of these bills, and how they will benefit Minnesota.
This bill gives permission to Xcel energy to build a gas-fired power plant at the existing coal-fired Sherco Power Plant site. The plan from Xcel Energy is to retire two of the three coal-fired units, and replace them with gas-fired units.
The Sherco Plant currently has the ability to power up to 50% of our state if necessary, making it the largest coal-fired plant in the Midwest. The Public Utilities Commission had put off giving approval for the Xcel plan of replacing coal units with gas-fired units, leaving our state in limbo with our future energy security. Sherco is a huge source of reliable, baseload power, which cannot be provided through other clean power sources like solar and wind.
Governor Dayton also stated yesterday that he would support a similar proposal that went through the Senate. I am happy to hear that he supports this approach, which is the most cost-effective way to secure affordable power for much of our state.
This piece of legislation essentially allows energy co-ops to remain competitive by removing unnecessary regulations, and makes municipal utilities and rural co-ops exempt from Public Utilities Commission jurisdiction when resolving net metering disputes.
Those who are owners/stakeholders of energy co-ops are also the consumers, and they elect a managing board to protect their interests. In other words, there isn’t a shareholder vs consumer conflict of interest for regulators to manage. This bill allows consumers the right to manage their own energy co-ops and cuts down on bureaucracy.
This bill repeals the Made in Minnesota Solar Program, which incentivizes businesses and individuals to buy solar panels from a list of Minnesota companies. The solar panels were assembled in Minnesota but manufactured in Asia. The solar panels were very expensive.
What’s more, the $15 million per year that is set aside for the solar program is paid by Xcel Energy’s customers, which means average citizens are paying for a program that helps a select few people buy expensive solar panels, often to produce energy just for themselves.
By repealing this program, we can use that $15 million to build up clean, cost-effective energy sources, and get more return on our state’s investment.
If you have any questions regarding the bills mentioned above or any other issue, please don’t hesitate to contact my office. I value your input.