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Focus on renewables, conservation (new law)

Published (5/29/2009)
By Sue Hegarty
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A new law will continue the state’s focus on developing renewable energy sources like wind power. (Photo by Tom Olmscheid)Pushing energy conservation to the front burner of Minnesota homes and providing a framework so that renewable energy production coexists with traditional energy delivery methods are the focus of a new law.

Sponsored by Rep. Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson) and Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon (DFL-Duluth), most of the law became effective May 20, 2009.

Renewable energy and conservation initiatives contained in the new law include:

• extending the annual $10.9 million for renewable energy production incentives to 2021 and adding hydroelectric production facilities to eligible grantees;

• allowing the Public Utilities Commission to consider the impact of energy conservation as a preferred consumer choice when setting rates that utilities may charge and removing direct compensation to utilities for their revenue losses as a result of their conservation programs;

• allowing a natural gas company to count biomethane purchases toward its energy conservation plan; and

• allocating $5 million from the Renewable Development Account to the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment at the University of Minnesota. A portion of the funds will be redistributed to a rural state college or university. The funds are to study environmentally sound production of energy from renewable sources, energy storage methods, development of energy conservation and utilization technologies, and to analyze policy options. An annual report is due to the Legislature.

Geographically specific policies are also in the law, which include:

• allowing the Mountain Iron Economic Development Authority to form a company to develop a C-BED project; and

• enabling utilities that serve the Central Corridor, the light rail transit line to be built between Minneapolis and St. Paul, to apply for new facilities within and outside the designated zone. Xcel Energy has plans to create a mixed use of utilities along the transit route.


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