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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R)

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Swedzinski: Solar program has become cash cow for out-of-state corporations

Friday, February 28, 2020


ST. PAUL – State Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, on Friday sharply criticized a bill that would expand the state’s community solar program, saying the initiative has strayed too far from its original purpose.

Swedzinski is the lead Republican on the House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division and voiced opposition to the bill (H.F. 3368), which was approved by the committee Thursday night.

“Minnesota’s community solar gardens were intended to provide access to solar power to renters, condo owners, and other residential customers without the capability to install rooftop solar panels,” Swedzinski said. “That said, over the past few years, this has evolved into a lucrative subsidy program for the benefit of out-of-state corporations. Xcel estimates that 87 percent of existing gardens are owned by out-of-state corporations.”

Swedzinski said Xcel Energy estimates the program imposes an extra $143 million per year in costs on electricity customers, and that solar gardens provide only 3 percent of Xcel’s electricity, but represent 21 percent of the utility’s fuel costs.

“The real kicker is solar gardens are not displacing coal and natural gas power, they are crowding out cheaper and more efficient solar power alternatives, costing more than triple the rates charged by competing technology,” Swedzinski said. “We need to adopt reforms that get us back to the program’s original purpose of serving residential consumers and that’s what House Republicans are advocating.”

The committee’s Democrat majority approved the bill on a party-line vote Thursday, sending the proposal to its next stop in the House process.