Minnesota’s new solar law: Looking beyond percentages
05/24/2013 by Dan Haugen
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday signed into law an energy bill that’s projected to give the state a more than thirtyfold increase in solar generation by the end of the decade.
The Solar Energy Jobs Act was rolled into a larger, omnibus economic development bill and approved by the state’s legislature last week.
The section that’s drawn the most attention is a 1.5 percent by 2020 solar electricity standard for large utilities that is on top of the state’s existing 25 percent by 2025 renewable mandate.
But the bill has several other components that could rival the solar standard’s impact, from expanded incentives and net-metering reforms to the creation of shared, community “solar gardens.”
Clean energy supporters in Minnesota had high hopes going into this year’s legislative session, the first since an electoral sweep in November flipped control of both chambers back to Democrats.
A coalition of environmental groups announced in January that its top energy priority was a proposal to make utilities generate a tenth of their electricity from solar by 2030.
The coalition included members of RE-AMP, which also publishes Midwest Energy News. Fresh Energy, the organization where Midwest Energy News is based, had a role in developing the policy.
The bill was ultimately diluted to a 1.5 percent solar standard by 2020, with a non-mandatory goal of hitting 10 percent by 2030. It also exempts municipal utilities, rural electric co-ops and large industrial customers.
“It’s important for people to understand that while 1.5 percent seems like a low number, it’s in a relatively short timeframe and it’s actually a fairly significant amount of solar deployment,” said Lynn Hinkle, policy director for the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association.
Over the next seven years, investor-owned utilities in the state will need