Minnesota

Office of Energy - Minnesota Department of Commerce

The Office of Energy at the Minnesota Department of Commerce is working to move Minnesota toward a sustainable energy future, managing energy assistance funds, advocating in the public interest on energy utility rates and facility siting. We provide information and assistance to residents, builders, utilities, non-profits and policy-makers on home improvements, financial assistance, renewable technologies including wind energy information, policy initiatives, and utility regulations.

Xcel Energy Solicits C-BED Project Proposals

As a part of Xcel Energy’s Community-Based Energy Development (C-BED) program, Xcel Energy is soliciting proposals for Community Based Wind Projects.

Xcel Energy will be accepting proposals for new Minnesota wind generation resources to be in commercial operation by Dec. 31, 2010. Xcel Energy will seek approvals for any resulting Renewable Energy Purchase Agreements from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The submission deadline is February 20, 2009.

For more information see the Xcel Energy RFP.

Brookings County-Hampton Transmission Line Project Application Review

The CapX2020 utilities filed a permit on December 29, 2008 for the Brookings County-Hampton 345kV transmission line project at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

As required by law the application contains two route options for the approximately 240-mile transmission line and associated substations. The MN Public Utilities Commission will decide on a route and issue a permit after a public process that includes public input through meetings and hearings.

The permit application is available to view online as well as at one of the following local libraries:

  • Brookings Public Library
  • Redwood Falls Public Library
  • New Ulm Public Library
  • Bird Island Public Library
  • Carver County Library
  • Henderson Public Library
  • Chippewa County Public Library
  • Scott County Library - Shakopee Branch
  • Granite Falls Public Library
  • Northfield Public Library
  • Montgomery Public Library
  • Heritage Library
  • Ivanhoe Public Library
  • Farmington Library
  • Marshall-Lyon County Library
  • St. Peter Public Library
  • Hutchinson Public Library

For more information and to view this route application online please click here. For more information on all the CapX2020 activities, you can visit their website at www.capx2020.com. CapX2020 consists of 11 utilities that own transmission lines in Minnesota and the surrounding region.

Southern Minnesota Federal Grants Workshop-Rochester, MN-December 3

The purpose of this workshop is to connect citizens in southern Minnesota with grant opportunities with the goal of enhancing opportunity and prosperity for all citizens in southern Minnesota. 

By convening representatives from federal, state and local agencies with community based organizations, this workshop will foster the sharing of information and strategies relating to applying for and obtaining federal grants.  During this day long workshop, participants will hear about available resources, learn how to research grant opportunities, review best practices in grant writing, and discover current trends in funding.

One of the breakout session tracks in this workshop is titled "Energizing Communities through Alternative Energy."  Representatives of the US Dept. of Energy, MN Dept. of Commerce State Energy Office, Joel Haskard of CERTS and Lisa Noty of USDA Rural Development have been invited to provide leadership for this track.  They will have resources, both financial and informational to share with attendees.

Plenary speakers will focus on the process of seeking grant funding both at the federal and state levels.  The event is hosted by Congressman Tim Walz who will provide the keynote address.  Please see the attached workshop brochure for further information.

Phase I of Minnesota Dispersed Renewable Generation study available

The passage of the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 by the Minnesota State Legislature and Tim Pawlenty requires a study of the potential for dispersed renewable generation statewide. The study consists of two parts, Phase I and Phase II, which focus on installing a total of 1200MW of new dispersed renewable energy projects with a minimal impact on the transmission grid. As determined by the legislation, project sizes under consideration are limited to between 10 and 40MW. For the study the state is split into six regions while focusing on the five out-state regions - the NW, NE, W-C, SW and SE - for potential for dispersed generation The Minnesota utilities affected by the 25x25' (25% by 2025) renewable energy standard are performing the analytical work with oversight by the projects Technical Review Committee (TRC).

On June, 16th 2008 the results of Phase I of the study were released. The first phase of the study, the appendices, and the presentation slides for the study's release can be found at the Minnesota Department of Commerce page.

New Report from ILSR: "Minnesota Feed-In Tariff Could Lower Cost, Boost Renewables and Expand Local Ownership"

This January 2008 policy brief from the New Rules Project of ILSR highlights how several European countries, and more recently the Canadian province of Ontario, have adopted a simple yet powerful strategy to expand renewable energy and benefit local economies. It is called a feed-in tariff: a mandated, long-term premium price for renewable energy paid by the local electric utility to energy producers. Evidence shows that a feed-in tariff achieves greater results at a lower cost than do other strategies like tax incentives or renewable electricity standards.

Click here to go to the New Rules Project website and download a copy of the report.

Minnesota Energy Legislation in 2007

2007 was a landmark year for energy policy in Minnesota. The legislature passed the strongest renewable energy standard in the nation with overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle. This law makes Minnesota a leader in clean energy policy and creates a great opportunity for our state to reap the rewards of the booming renewable energy industry. With the passage of The Next Generation Energy Act of 2007, the legislature made sure much of the economic benefits of the increased renewable energy would stay in our rural communities.

The bill also contains real solutions to global warming that will create tangible cost savings for Minnesotan families and businesses.

The Renewable Energy Standard

The strongest renewable energy standard (RES) in the nation became law this session when Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a requirement that the state’s electric utilities obtain 25% of their energy from renewable resources by 2020. Minnesota’s utilities currently get about 6% of their energy from renewable sources. Under this new law, Minnesota will add between 5,000 and 6,000 MW of new renewable energy, a large part of which is expected to come from new wind turbines in our rural communities.

The renewable energy standard is a market-based mechanism that requires utilities to gradually increase the portion of their energy that is produced from renewable sources like wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy. The RES uses tradable renewable energy credits to achieve reductions in a flexible, low-cost manner that creates competition among renewable energy generators and provides them with an incentive to continually drive costs down. Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard will help keep electricity costs low, spur economic development, increase energy independence and security, and lead to cleaner air.

The Next Generation Energy Act of 2007

The Next Generation Energy Act, signed into law this May, provides for concrete actions that will set Minnesota on a path to achieve 80% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Key components of the law include:

Three times the current amount of investment in energy efficiency measures that will produce a 25% energy savings by 2025.

  • A goal to aggressively reduce our global warming pollution to reach an 80% reduction below 2005 levels by 2050.
  • The creation of an economy-wide climate change action plan by February 1, 2008. Arizona’s climate action plan will result in an estimated overall net economic cost savings of more than $5.5 billion from 2007 to 2020.
  • Required reductions in CO2 from the power sector. After August 1, 2009 there will be a moratorium on new power plants unless they can offset their CO2 emissions

The Next Generation Energy Act also includes critical provisions that will help rural communities plan, build, and own renewable energy facilities themselves, thereby keeping energy dollars in local communities. The Act:

  • Allows counties to take over permitting authority to site wind energy facilities up to 25MW in size, an increase over the previous 5MW, and impose higher standards than state laws.
  • Allows local governments to own wind energy projects with more than two turbines without partnering with other entities.
  • Requires utilities to study the amount of renewable energy that can be connected to existing local transmission lines and substations with minimal upgrades, thereby using existing utility infrastructure more efficiently and delaying the need for new large transmission lines.
  • Requires that developers finish projects within 7 years or renegotiate land development agreements with landowners to extend these agreements.
  • Requires the Department of Commerce to consider the Community-Based Energy Development (C-BED) economic benefits that flow to all local interests, not just the project developer, when approving C-BED projects.
  • Allows C-BED developers to negotiate market-based rates unhindered by out-of-date price caps.
  • Requires utilities to consider contracting with C-BED projects to comply with the Renewable Energy Standard.
  • Allows utilities to partner with C-BED projects.
  • Requires a variety of studies on emerging community energy issues.

“These changes in law will help cities, counties, school districts, and other local agencies develop, own, and benefit from wind farms. Local ownership of wind projects helps ensure that a broader spectrum of Minnesotans benefit financially from renewable energy, and it also helps make rural communities more energy independent.”

-David Benson, Nobles County Commissioner

More Information
For more information about the benefits of community wind, click here.

For the full text of the Renewable Energy Standard bill click here.

For the full text of The Next Generation Energy Act, click here.

Minnesota Passes New C-BED Legislation

New Law Passed to Advance Community Energy Projects
Next Generation Energy Act Helps MN Farmers and Small Businesses Build Renewable Energy Projects

St. Paul, MN – (5/25/07) Today Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the Next Generation Energy Act (SF145), which includes critical provisions that will help rural communities build wind farms, biomass power plants and other renewable energy facilities.

The legislature passed the bill on Sunday with strong bipartisan support.

This community-based energy development (C-BED) legislation helps rural communities plan, build and own renewable energy facilities themselves, thereby keeping energy dollars in local economies. A number of studies have shown that local ownership of wind farms at least triples local financial benefits relative to ownership of wind facilities by large outside companies (see references, below). “This legislation keeps Minnesota at the cutting edge of community wind energy development nationwide,” said Lisa Daniels, Executive Director of Windustry. She added, “Currently, Minnesotans own more wind power projects than residents of other states.” Thirty percent (275 MW out of 895 MW) of Minnesota’s wind energy capacity is community-based.

Andrew Falk, a wind developer near Benson Minnesota said, “First, we must thank State Representative Aaron Peterson for his incredible work and leadership on this important issue. Communities want to take an active role in meeting the energy needs of the 21st century with locally owned renewable energy resources. This piece of legislation assists the utilities and the regulatory agencies in comprehending the value of community-based energy development (C-BED) projects. A key provision in the bill prevents wind energy development companies from buying wind rights from landowners and then not developing them within a reasonable time. “All over the country, wind energy is hot so large companies are buying up wind rights before the competition drives up prices,” noted Daniels. “The law protects landowners in this exploding market by requiring developers to finish building projects within seven years or renegotiate their deals with landowners.”

The legislation also makes it easier for local governments to own wind energy projects, and it allows counties, rather than just the state government, to permit projects as large as 25 MW. “These changes in law will help cities, counties, school districts and other local agencies develop, own and benefit from wind farms,” said David Benson, Nobles County Commissioner. He added, “Local ownership of wind projects helps ensure that a broader spectrum of Minnesotans benefit financially from renewable energy and it also helps make rural communities more energy independent.” “Farmers all over the state want to earn more hard dollars from wind farms,” added Daniels, “but, our current regulatory and tax system makes entry into this new business opportunity needlessly cumbersome. This new law removes some barriers and will help us deal with future ones.”

The legislation includes provisions that:

  • Allow counties to take over permitting authority to site wind energy facilities up to 25 MN in size, up from 5 MW, and impose higher standards than state law.
  • Allow local governments to own wind energy projects with more than two turbines without partnering with other entities.
  • Require utilities to study the amount of renewable energy that can be connected to existing local transmission lines and substations with minimal upgrades, thereby using existing utility infrastructure more efficiently and delaying the need for new large transmission lines.
  • Require that developers finish projects within 7 years or renegotiate land development agreements with landowners to extend these agreements.
  • Require the Department of Commerce to consider the C-BED economic benefits that flow to all local interests, not just the project developer, when approving C-BED projects.
  • Allow C-BED developers to negotiate market-based rates unhindered by an out-of-date price cap.
  • Require utilities to consider contracting with C-BED projects to comply with the Renewable Energy Standard adopted by the State in February.
  • Allow utilities to partner with C-BED projects.
  • Require a variety of studies on emerging community energy issues.

For information about the economic benefits of community wind relative to other development, go to:
http://www.windustry.org/community/default.htm#Why%20Community%20Wind
For the text of and other information about the Next Generation Energy Act, SF 145, go to:
http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/revisor/pages/search_status/status_detail.php?b=Senate&f=sf145&s
sn=0&y=2007

Windustry is a non-profit organization working to increase wind energy opportunities for rural landowners and communities by providing technical support and creating tools for analysis.

** Media Contact: Lisa Daniels 612-870-3462 **

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