The Minnesota State Legislature’s attempt to expand the amount of electricity that utility companies secure from renewable energy sources cleared a major hurdle recently, as H.F. 956 was included in the House omnibus energy bill.  H.F. 956 proposes to increase Minnesota’s renewable energy standard (“RES”) to 40% by 2030.  The current standard requires that Minnesota’s utilities secure 25% of their power from renewable sources by 2025 (30% for Xcel Energy in exchange for nuclear waste storage at Prairie Island).

Although the Senate companion bill, S.F. 901, does not include the same language, the bill includes a 40% by 2030 renewable energy transmission and integration study.  Such a study lays the foundation for an expanded RES, possibly as soon as the conference committee.

In addition to the RES expansion, the bills set forth requirements for the creation of a solar electricity standard and an expansion of the use of distributed generation.  The solar electricity standard contained in S.F. 901 would require utilities to generate or procure solar electric generation capacity at a minimum percentage (not yet specified) by 2016, 2020, and 2025.  Like the current RES, the solar electricity standard would set different values for Xcel Energy.  Notably, the solar energy procured for the solar electricity standard could not be used to satisfy the utilities’ obligations under the RES.  H.F. 956 seeks to expand the use of distributed generation throughout Minnesota by requiring the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to initiate a proceeding to establish a generic standard for utility tariffs for interconnection and parallel operation of distributed generation projects.  Among other things, the tariff standards must encourage maximum penetration of distributed generation.

Despite the recent success, more hurdles remain for these bills.   The bills must pass additional legislative committees, the House and Senate floors, a conference committee, and secure the Governor’s signature.  The remaining seven weeks of the 2013 legislative session should provide some interesting developments.