Last week, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission resolved a longstanding dispute over who owns Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) when the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is silent.  Following the establishment of an REC tracking system for Minnesota, Xcel Energy asked the Commission to clarify ownership of RECs associated with 46 wind, biomass, hydro, and landfill gas facilities totaling 467.5 MW.  These PPAs were written before the concept of RECs existed.

On August 17, 2010, the Commission resolved the dispute partially in favor of Xcel and partially in favor of the generators.  The Commission divided the disputed PPAs into two categories: 1) PPAs signed under 1978 federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) and 2) PPAs signed under Minnesota’s 1994 wind and biomass mandates (Minn. Stat. §§216B.2423 and 216B.2424).

For the PURPA contracts, the Commission decided that the generators are the rightful owners of RECs because they had only been paid avoided cost with no premium for the electricity being from renewable sources.

For the wind and biomass mandate PPAs, the Commission favored Xcel and decided that the utility had acquired ownership of the RECs, unless the generator can make a showing that the PPA is not silent on REC ownership.  For this category, the Commission reasoned that Xcel had contracted to buy electricity that would meet specific renewable mandates.  Without the RECs, the electricity would not satisfy the renewable mandates.

The Commission exempted two PPAs close to being privately settled from its decision as well as 13 PPAs that were already privately settled.

Filings related to the “silent PPAs” dispute can be found by searching for Docket No. E-002/08-440 in Minnesota’s eDocket system.