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Minnesota Legislature

Thermal energy supported

Published (3/6/2009)
By Sue Hegarty
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A policy to encourage use of solar energy to produce thermal energy for heating buildings was approved March 2 by the House Energy Finance and Policy Division.

HF1078, sponsored by Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls), would require the commerce commissioner and Pollution Control Agency to make recommendations to the Legislature for achieving solar and thermal energy goals, specifically the federal requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2025. Passage of the bill would be the catalyst needed to reduce energy dependence on coal and to expand the number of green jobs in Minnesota, Thissen said.

About one-third of the energy consumed in Minnesota is thermal, said Anders Rydaker, president of District Energy in St. Paul. “To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set goals for reducing our carbon footprint, we should not ignore that third.”

Minneapolis receives as much direct sunlight as Houston, Texas, and is therefore poised to produce more thermal and solar energy, assuming that incentives and policies are in place, said Rydaker, adding that solar-thermal energy is three times more efficient than solar-electric production.

Once a policy is established, incentives will follow, Thissen said, adding that incentives do not necessarily mean tax incentives.

Republican members called the bill ambiguous, and the vote was split along party lines.

The bill was sent to the House floor, and also could be considered for possible inclusion in the division’s omnibus bill. A companion, SF1020, sponsored by Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul), awaits action by the Senate Energy, Utilities, Technologies and Communications Committee.

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