Sara Bergan

Sara Bergan

Sara Bergan taps into her background and experience working on energy policy issues to advise her renewable energy and cleantech clients on project development, project finance and energy and environmental regulatory matters. Before joining Stoel Rives, she served for several years as the executive director of the Great Plains Institute, a Midwest non-profit that brokers consensus energy and climate policy decisions among diverse stakeholders.

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Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Approves Some Changes to Community Solar Program, Declines Other Changes

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) approved several major changes to Xcel Energy’s Community Solar Garden (CSG) program yesterday, while also voting to maintain other aspects of the CSG program. Mike Hughlett of the Star Tribune has this report. The MPUC’s decisions are summarized below: Bill Credit Rate Declined to modify the Applicable Retail Rate at … Continue Reading

Eighth Circuit Panel Rules Minnesota Climate Change Law Unconstitutional

Today, the Eighth Circuit determined that the Next Generation Energy Act (“NGEA”), a Minnesota law that established power sector standards for carbon dioxide emissions, was unconstitutional (decision available here). In so doing, the Court affirmed the decision of District Court Judge Susan Nelson, whose 2014 decision we covered in “Court Declares Minnesota Coal Law Unconstitutional: … Continue Reading

Community Solar Update: PV Magazine and Solar Industry Magazine

Community solar (“CSG”) is the topic of two articles we authored in the September editions of PV Magazine and Solar Industry Magazine. Titled “Care in the Community” (PV Magazine) and “Proof of Concept: Community Solar is Ready to Soar Despite Complications” (Solar Industry Mag), the articles consider the launch of The National Community Solar Partnership … Continue Reading

Minnesota Community Solar Gardens Forecast: Partly Sunny with a Chance of Rain

Within days of its open on December 12, 2014, Xcel Energy’s Minnesota Community Solar Garden (CSG) Program had well over 300 MW worth of CSG applications submitted and by this writing nearly 430 MW.  The rush of significant application creates a question of “who’s in line first?”  That was the question before the Minnesota Public … Continue Reading

To Need or Not to Need, that is the Question: MN PUC Answers in the Affirmative

On Monday, the MN PUC addressed whether ‘tis nobler in the pocketbook to suffer the slings and arrows of the MISO market or to invest in new generating units against a sea of uncertainty. As we noted in prior blogs, the MN PUC initiated the competitive process seeking bids to meet a claimed capacity need … Continue Reading

Xcel Announces Launch Date for its Community Solar Garden Program

Xcel announced this morning that it plans to open its Community Solar Garden program next Friday, December 12, 2014 at 9:00 AM CST. In its filing, the company attempts to clarify the “first-ready, first-served” application process it plans to follow. The company explains that Garden operators can view a time stamp marking when the application … Continue Reading

Minnesota Can Reliably Integrate 40% Renewables According to DOC Transmission Study

Yesterday, the Minnesota Department of Commerce issued its highly anticipated Minnesota Renewable Energy Integration and Transmission Study, which indicated that the “capacity for adding additional wind and solar up to 40% by 2030 can be reliably accommodated by the electric power system” (DOC press release here). The study stated that with relatively modest upgrades to existing transmission, … Continue Reading

Minnesota Community Solar Garden Program Approved, Set to Open

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission today issued its long-awaited Order approving (with modifications) Xcel Energy’s Community Solar Garden (CSG) Program – Solar Rewards*Community.  The Order starts the clock for the program to open no later than 90 days from issuance of the Order (mid-December) and officially plows the furrow for community solar projects in Minnesota.  It … Continue Reading

Value-of-Solar is Delayed; Minnesota Community Solar Gardens Move Forward

Yesterday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (“MPUC”) approved Xcel Energy’s first Minnesota-based Community Solar Garden (CSG) program. After Xcel’s initial program filing was rejected by the MPUC in April, Xcel filed a revised CSG tariff with the MPUC in June. In a related filing, Xcel also argued that a  value of solar (“VOS”) rate for … Continue Reading

EPA Unveils Sweeping New CO2 Rules

Yesterday EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy unveiled the highly anticipated carbon dioxide rules for existing power plants.  Dubbed the “Clean Power Plan,” the rules taken together likely will have a significant impact on industrial and other consumers of electricity as well as developers of natural gas-fired and renewable  generation (e.g., solar, biomass and wind). Stoel Rives attorneys … Continue Reading

Northern States Power Company Issues 100 MW Solar RFP

* 5/14/14 update: FAQs released  Northern States Power Company (d/b/a Xcel Energy) released its long-awaited solar request for proposals (RFP) today. Although it had earlier suggested the RFP would be for up to 150 MW, today’s RFP seeks up to 100 MW of PV resources. The Company explained that the amount acquired through this RFP may ultimately … Continue Reading

Court Declares Minnesota Coal Law Unconstitutional: Electrons Favor the Laws of Physics to Those of Governments

Minnesota legislators passed the Next Generation Energy Act in 2007 which, in part, established power sector standards for carbon dioxide emissions. As a result Minn. Stat. §216H.03 now provides that no person shall: Construct within a state a new large energy facility that would contribute to statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions; Import or commit to … Continue Reading

Fake Punt! Minnesota Commission Immediately Reevaluates Motion, Advances Solar Plus One (or more) Gas Plants

In a follow up to our prior post, we now report that the Minnesota Commission subsequently modified its initial decision to clarify that Xcel Energy is directed to negotiate a power purchase agreement with the solar bidder, which will be reviewed by the Commission to ensure the terms are consistent with the public interest. Xcel … Continue Reading

Minnesota Commission Punts on Resource Decision: Keeps Solar in the Game

After the years of inconclusive resource planning, months of contested case proceedings, and days of oral argument, discussion and review that led to today’s deliberations, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (“Commission”) unanimously decided not to decide. The ultimate question before the Commission was what capacity needs had been determined in the record and what should … Continue Reading

Value of Solar Achieves a New Dawn in Minnesota

Yesterday afternoon, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the methodology for calculating value of solar (VOS) tariffs in Minnesota as developed by the Department of Commerce. In doing so, Minnesota became the first in the nation to adopt a VOS tariff methodology. The Commission was required by statute to take action on the VOS calculation … Continue Reading

Initial Rate for Minnesota Community Solar Gardens Set (Almost)

After a full day of hearing arguments on Xcel’s proposed Community Solar Garden (CSG) program (see more on that here), the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission deliberated in public on the issue yesterday and made some important modifications to Xcel’s proposal. The program would allow Xcel customers to invest in off-site solar facilities and receive bill … Continue Reading

Viewpoints Diverge on the Value of Solar in Minnesota

Final comments were filed yesterday on the proposed methodology for calculating a value of solar (VOS) rate for utilities in Minnesota (more on the proposed methodology is here). With the Commission required to make a decision within 60 days of January 31, 2014, parties remain in fairly wide disagreement about what is required by statute, particularly what … Continue Reading

What is the Value of Solar? Minnesota Agency Starts to Answer. . .

by Sara Bergan and Sarah Johnson Phillips In May 2013, the Minnesota Legislature passed legislation that, among other things, set a solar standard, directed Xcel Energy to develop a community solar garden program, and provided for the development of an alternative tariff mechanism to net metering that would also serve as the rate for community solar … Continue Reading

Other Bidders Question MN ALJ’s Selection of Solar Generation

At the close of last year, Minnesota Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman determined that the single solar proposal in a competitive resource acquisition process would provide the best value to Xcel ratepayers (see more here). Key to his decision was his conclusion that Xcel’s capacity needs in the timeframe considered were uncertain and potentially declining … Continue Reading

Minnesota Judge Rules Solar Provides Best Value for Ratepayers

Update: Initial exceptions to this ruling are due on January 21, 2014, see attached scheduling notice. On December 31, 2013, Minnesota Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman determined in a competitive bidding process that solar provided greater value to ratepayers than natural gas. In a first-ever competitive bidding process under Minn. Stat. §216B.2422, subd. 5, 4 bidders … Continue Reading

Plans for Community Solar Gardens in Minnesota Emerge

After much anticipation, Xcel Energy submitted its petition for approval (PDF) of the company’s proposed community solar gardens program on September 30th. The program would give utility customers a new way to engage in solar generation without having to invest onsite. A solar garden is a “facility that generates electricity by means of a ground-mounted or … Continue Reading

EPA Proposes 2013 RFS2 Volume Obligations

Last Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency released its proposed rule for the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (“RFS2”) volume obligations. Every year the EPA is required to determine and publish the annual volume requirements for each class of renewable fuel that obligated parties will have to comply with for the upcoming year under the RFS2 program. The volumes required … Continue Reading

ITC Confirms Anti-Competitive Trade Practices Finding — Major Duties Imposed on Chinese Solar Imports

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) today affirmed its preliminary ruling that Chinese trade practices were harming the U.S. solar technology industry. The ruling stems from the submission of trade cases by domestic solar-industry companies on October 19, 2011, that argued the Chinese government was using improper subsidies to underwrite its solar industry export campaign … Continue Reading

Comment Period Closes for RFS Waiver Request: EPA Receives Nearly 30K Public Comments

The deadline for public comments on petitions seeking a waiver of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) expired last night on October 11, 2012. The Governors of Arkansas and North Carolina had submitted separate requests, in letters dated August 13, 2012 and August 14, 2012,  asking for a waiver of RFS volume requirements. Under Section 211(o)(7)(A) … Continue Reading
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