As a follow up to our post here, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a decision on August 23 affirming the MPUC’s decisions related to the Nemadji Trail Energy Center natural gas plant (NTEC) that will be constructed in Superior, Wisconsin. Applying a deferential standard of review, the Court analyzed the appeal (on remand
MEPA Review Not Required as Part of Wisconsin Gas Plant Affiliated-Interest Agreements, Says Minnesota Supreme Court
As a follow up to a previous post the Minnesota Supreme Court issued its decision on April 21, 2021, reversing the Minnesota Court of Appeals and remanding the matter for further review. In so doing, the Court concluded that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission properly concluded that MEPA review was not required.
The Court first…
Minnesota Court of Appeals Determines MEPA Review Required for Wisconsin Natural Gas Generating Facility
On December 23, 2019, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a decision by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (the “Commission”) approving affiliated-interest agreements permitting Minnesota Power and its Wisconsin affiliate to move forward with the construction of a large natural gas facility – the Nemadji Trail Energy Center (“NTEC”) – in Superior, Wisconsin (the “Order”). The result of the Order may complicate the already complex issue of state permitting, specifically a state’s ability to regulate activity occurring in another state.
Honor the Earth and certain Clean Energy Organizations sought additional review of the Commission’s order based on concern about the lack of a Commission-ordered environmental assessment worksheet (“EAW”) pursuant to the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (“MEPA”). During the initial Commission proceeding, Minnesota Power, and indeed the Commission, determined that an EAW was not necessary because (1) MEPA does not apply to the affiliated-interest agreements because NTEC does not meet the definition of “project” under MEPA, and (2) the Commission does not have authority to order an EAW for a project located in Wisconsin. In its Order, the Court of Appeals addresses each point, in turn.
The Order holds that MEPA applies to affiliated-interest agreements. Contrary to the Commission’s interpretation, the Court of Appeals concludes that the NTEC affiliated-interest agreements are “projects” as defined by MEPA. The Court’s definition of “project” is “a definite, site-specific, action that contemplates on-the-ground environmental changes.” The Order notes that the construction and operation of NTEC are definite and site-specific actions that will affect the immediate location as well as the surrounding environment (including Minnesota – 2.5 miles away – and Lake Superior). The Court went on to note that because the construction of NTEC is an environmentally significant event that may not occur without Commission approval of the affiliated-interest agreements, Commission approval of such agreements constitutes indirect governmental action manipulating the environment and triggering MEPA. Therefore, the Court concluded that MEPA “applies to the governmental action of approving the NTEC affiliated-interest agreements.”…
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SEPA Selects “Grid Market Structures” Paper Concept as a Focus of 51st State Summit
I’m pleased to announce that the Solar Electric Power Association has selected a paper authored by James Tong of Clean Power Finance, Jenny Hu and myself as one of three concepts that will focus discussion at SEPA’s 51st State Summit on Monday, April 27 in San Diego. Titled “The 51st State: Market Structures for a Smarter, More Efficient Grid,” the paper was selected from a dozen submitted by individuals and organizations from across the country.
You can view our paper concept at this SEPA link (PDF). A screenshot of the abstract of our paper is available at the end of this post.
As Gavin Bade of Utility Dive described in a review of our paper concept last week, James, Jenny and myself are calling for an Independent Distribution System Operator (IDSO) model under which the grid would operate like a network “not unlike the Internet, stock market, or our capitalistic economy,” with millions of actors each day making value-based energy decisions on a “plug-and-play” grid with multi-directional electricity flows.
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New Report Ranks Power Utilities by Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency Performance
In a first-of-its-kind report announced this morning, Ceres and Clean Edge ranked the nation’s largest electric utilities and local subsidiaries on their renewable energy sales and energy efficiency savings. The report focused on three clean energy indicators: renewable energy sales; cumulative annual energy efficiency; and incremental annual energy efficiency.
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Minnesota Legislature Looks to Jump Start Renewable Energy Exports
The Minnesota State Legislature is currently debating a bill that would ease the regulatory burden on independent power producers looking to export wind and solar energy generated in Minnesota.
Minnesota law currently prohibits the construction of a large energy facility without the issuance of a certificate of need by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. This…
Minnesota Utilitites and Stakeholders Meet to Kick Off e21 Initiative
Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, Center for Energy and Environment, George Washington University, and other stakeholders participated in the first e21 Initiative meeting on February 28. The e21 Initiative aims to develop a new or adapted regulatory framework that addresses the challenges of the evolving energy economy and shifting technological landscape. There will be three phases…
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 garden programs. Under this new scenario and instead of traditional net-metering arrangements, customers would potentially buy all of their electricity from their local distribution utility and then sell all of their PV generation under that utility’s Value of Solar (VOS) tariff which would be designed to capture the societal value of PV-generated electricity.
The legislation directed the Department of Commerce to work with stakeholders to develop a VOS methodology and to deliver its recommendations to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (Commission) on Friday, January 31, 2014. The Department’s filing today includes its recommendation, with a more in-depth document addressing the methodology. The Department’s recommendations do not set a rate, but rather propose the methodology for calculating a utility-specific rate for distributed PV solar (1 MW and smaller). If the Department’s sample calculation is any indicator of what’s to come, however, the value went from $0.126/kWh in its initial draft to $0.135/kWh in the documents filed this morning.…
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Post-Conference Report: Solar Power International 2013
Thousands of solar industry participants gathered in Chicago for the Solar Power International expo in Chicago, Illinois on October 21-24 to discuss the state of the solar industry. Participatnts included banks, investors, developers and equipment suppliers, and also several Stoel Rives attorneys.
Many themes emerged during the week-long event, and a common thread running through these…
1.3 GW California Energy Storage Procurement Mandate Approved
The California Public Utilities Commission has unanimously approved a 1,325 MW energy storage procurement target for the state’s largest utilities in Decision 13-10-040. PG&E, SDG&E, and SCE must collectively procure 1,325 MW of energy storage resources by 2020, for installation no later than 2024. The first of at least four competitive solicitations for energy storage projects…