The Minnesota Court of Appeals filed its decision today affirming the Public Utilities Commission’s August 6, 2015 Order in the community solar garden proceeding, which adopted the partial settlement agreement between certain solar developers and Xcel Energy and decided several crucial aspects of Xcel’s community solar program, including the 5 MW cap on co-located gardens. Sunrise Energy Ventures, LLC, a major developer in the community solar program, argued on appeal that the Commission engaged in improper and unlawful rulemaking, violated due process, and acted contrary to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA).
The Court of Appeals rejected each of Sunrise’s arguments. The Court found that the Commission had not engaged in rulemaking in its Order, but rather had made reasonable determinations consistent with the statute to modify the program in light of the “overwhelming response” of developers. The Court also found that the reservation letter between the developer and Xcel is not an enforceable contract and cannot serve as the basis for a substantive due process claim, and that the Commission did not violate Minnesota’s open-meeting law by taking a break to “talk to staff” and then immediately voting to adopt the co-location cap. Finally, the Court concluded that the Commission did not violate PURPA by allowing Xcel to refuse interconnection for a community solar garden that would require upgrades over $1 million, because Xcel’s Section 10 tariff already offers developers the ability to interconnect pursuant to PURPA.
Sunrise has 30 days to seek review of the decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court.