New Clean Energy and Jobs for MN
Report on the May 2013 Brooklyn Park Solar Energy Forum
At the recent Brooklyn Park forum on jobs and energy, J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director at Fresh Energy, assured the attendees that scientists agree that climate change is real and that our increasing use of fossil fuels has been the major contributor. She noted that 98% of scientists are in agreement on this, including the top scientists in the nation nominated by their peers to be members of the National Academy of Science. Nobody in the audience objected to this assessment of climate change. Hamilton quickly moved on to what Minnesota is doing about it.
40% Clean Energy: An Easy Goal for MN
Among the top states to set standards for increasing the use of clean energy, Hamilton noted that Minnesota is fourth in the amount of its electricity produced with wind turbines. Ahead of Minnesota are our neighboring states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa, all states, which like Minnesota have high wind resources. J. Hamilton saw MN's goal of reaching 40% of its electricity produced by wind and solar by 2030 as a goal that will be easy for the electric utilities to reach.
A Step in the Right Direction
Senator Chris Eaton commented on the fast paced final days of the legislative session as legislators hurried to pass legislation. Senator Eaton explained that part of the 2013 Solar Energy Jobs Act was passed. She was disappointed that the full bill which would have required MN electric utilities to produce 10% of electricity from solar energy by 2030 was not passed. Instead the legislature passed a bill requiring 1.5% of electricity produced only by investor owned utilities be produced by solar energy by 2020. Senator Eaton invited Lynn Hinkle, Public Policy Director for the MN Solar Industries Association, to comment on the bill that was passed.
A 30 to 40 Fold Increase in Solar Energy for Electricity Users
Lynn Hinkle commented that though the full bill was not passed, the part that did pass was landmark legislation for MN. The most important part of the bill, getting the state started on increasing solar energy was passed. The original bill had included a gradual ramp up of solar energy in MN with large increases in solar occurring in the final years the bill covered. This bill covers the early years of solar development in MN and will result in a 30 to 40 fold increase in solar energy by 2020, from the current 13 megawatts of solar energy produced to 450 megawatts. It is expected to create 1,500 new jobs in Minnesota.
Residential Solar and Community Solar Gardens
The bill requires at least a tenth of the new solar energy to come from solar installations of up to 20 kilowatts, a residential size installation, and it allows for community solar projects in which individuals could invest and then have their utility bills reduced. A MN first is the requirement that there be a true value of solar energy study done for MN. The time of day that solar energy is available and its distributed nature gives solar energy added value to utility companies. Because much of the energy is used at or close to the location where it is produced, it reduces the need for additional transmission lines. Because solar energy peaks at in the late afternoon and evening hours about the same time as demand peaks , it reduces utilities need to build generators for peak energy or to buy peak electricity which costs two to three times the cost of electricity purchased through long term contracts.
People and organizations installing solar panels will receive a standard payment for the electricity they produce for 20 years. This is called a "clean contract." A provision specific to MN is that the producers of solar energy can receive annual credit on their utility bills only up to the cost of the electricity they use. Minnesotans planning to have solar panels installed need to calculate the amount of electricity they use annually to determine the number of panels that will cover their electricity use.
For further details on the bill see:
Minnesota's new solar law: Looking beyond percentages by Dan Haugen at Midwestern Energy news.
A Great Leap Forward on Solar Energy: Solar Bill Will Expand Solar Access by More than 30 Fold Increase by 2020 by Rob Sargent and Samantha Chadwick
Big Gains in Clean Energy and Efficiency this Year by Ross Abbey at Fresh Energy
Minnesota's New Solar Energy Standard by John Farrell at Energy Self Reliant States
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