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Minnesota Paves the Way for Solar Energy Advocates Nationwide

minnesota solar

Value of Solar tariff is just one of the state’s leading efforts in appeasing the solar battle

By Jake Rozmaryn and Danielle Kershner

The solar battle between utilities, stakeholders, solar customers and other rate payers is coming to an end—at least in Minnesota. Last Wednesday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted in favor of the nation’s first statewide formula for calculating the value of customer-generated solar power.

Minnesota is the first state to calculate the true “value of solar,” defined by the Commerce Department, which turns out to include more than just electric bill savings. These benefits are calculated to create a tariff for crediting consumers’ bills for solar electricity production. The Value of Solar also considers the cost to society and the environment from carbon emissions and burning fossil fuels. According to Midwest Energy News, the commission voted to adopt the federal government’s social cost of carbon figure, an estimate of how much carbon emissions harm the economy—such as detriment to public health and agricultural output, a rise in sea-level and other damaging effects that stem from carbon pollution and climate change. Jigar Shah calls the tariff, “the future of net metering.”

PUC’s decision to integrate the “value of solar” tariff piggy-backs off of the Solar Energy Jobs Act, signed by Gov. Mark Dayton (D) in 2013. The law requires that utilities obtain at least 1.5 percent of their electricity from solar resources by 2020. According to Fresh Energy, the tariff’s adoption is voluntary, except for Minnesota’s community solar gardens, which will require participants to be reimbursed at the value-of-solar rate.

This latest development in Minnesota’s solar initiative comes after many recent solar incentives made their way to the state.  Made in Minnesota is a PV and thermal incentive program for consumers administered by the Department of Commerce. The program provides $15 million/year of incentives public electric utility customers. Additionally, rebates up to 25 percent off installed systems are available to commercial, multi-family and residential property owners who install Made in Minnesota–certified PV and solar thermal systems. Community Solar, another policy in play in Minnesota, allows homeowners who are unable to go solar due to economic or logistical reasons to take advantage of solar energy incentives.

Next up for Minnesota: third party financing. If Minnesota adopted a third party financing law, homeowners and businesses would be able to go solar without any upfront costs. Minnesota is leading the way for the Midwest and the entire Nation, instituting solar energy policies that will benefit everybody from utilities to solar customers and other rate-payers.

“In theory, everyone is a winner if utilities adopt Minnesota’s market value of solar,” John Farrell of the Institute of Local Self-Reliance said. “In the near term, solar energy producers will get a better price than they have under net metering. In the long term, the cost of solar will fall below the market value, and the 25-year, fixed price contract will help small-scale producers secure financing.”

Adopting these monumental solar policies into law validates Minnesota as a rapidly emerging player in the national solar market. In continuing its efforts, Minnesota will host the Midwest Solar Expo, a day- long conference in downtown Minneapolis on May 16th, which will bring together solar leaders, policy makers and businesses to discuss the latest industry trends and best practices. John Farrell, Jigar Shah, Michael Noble and other industry experts will speak about solar in Minnesota and opportunities throughout the Midwest.

Photo Credit: Minnesota and Solar/shutterstock

Content Discussion

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on March 19, 2014

I just got off the tractor plowing nearly a foot of new snow in my driveway from a storm yesterday. Virtually nothing has melted in much of Minnesota since the first of December. They’ve been breaking ice on Lake Superior to free up some shipping, but we don’t have enough solar energy yet to keep it open. The Minnesota DNR is now drilling holes in thick lake ice to pump Oxygen into the lakes so fish don’t suffocate.

The politicians making energy policy in Minnesota are mostly winter residents of Florida and Arizona. An unrelated issue to  legacy Minnesotans is the likelihood of severe flooding and uncertain crop planting. Two separate worlds here that don’t communicate.

wind smith's picture
wind smith on March 19, 2014

Not sure what your point is Rick. First paragraph must have to do with climate and that because of our below normal winter global warming is not happening. Globally that’s far from true, much warmer than normal northern Pacific water just south of Alaska formed a massive very stable rising air column that caused a detour of the polar vortex to head southeast. Alaska is way above normal this year – 14.8 F above normal in Jan.2014, 3rd warmest – as is much of the rest of the globe.

Second paragraph must have to do with how uncertain climate change is making Minnesota agriculture. 

 

 

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on March 20, 2014

You are right, Wind. I try to not express my feelings clearly on the internet.

Suffice to say I consider your brand of “environmentalist” equally destructive with gun toting, ATV driving “outdoorsmen.” Have you ever seen or tasted wild strawberries? Or watched swarms of dragonflies catch their prey? When did trashing nature become so politically correct?

I have never met a real scientist in your movement, and I’ve known some doozies. To begin, simply create some wetland, mostly leave it alone, and you will learn nature is working overtime to clean up our human mess. If you find a real energy scientist, please let me know.

Bobbi O's picture
Bobbi O on March 20, 2014

Rick, I think you need to re think what you are trying to say. Is it you don’t trust  any scientific data or the motives of climatologist or what . You sound like you believe in a holistic approach to nature ; you do see a problem with what humans have done to the environment yet you seem to reject any idea of correcting human  mistakes using the  scientific  method.  Everyday you  make decisions based on what you observe on your farm using the best information available at the time. And I bet you change what you do if further observation suggest you need to change direction. That is not so different from what climate experts have been doing over the last two or three decades. The more information you have the more certain of the proper path to take.Climate scientist are getting more and more information from various scientific fields making them more certain that we have to act to stop carbon pollution.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on March 20, 2014

Bobbi O, this will be my last response to this article until you find a real scientist. I am a Biophysicist, and I recommend U of M Physics Prof. John Broadhurst, or Dan Dahlberg if Prof. Broadhurst is no longer available. Maybe they are both gone by now?

I have been pushing cellulosic solar biofuels for over 20 years. We had a meeting at NSP research that included a computer researcher I met when pushing the internet, and Rep. Leroy Koppendrayer (later PUC chair). Ironically, at the same time this Minnesota group went to twist political arms and insist on non-solutions. Apparently, the U of MN and others are now looking at new options, too.

We are facing an economic and environmental meltdown if WWIII doesn’t get us first. It is time to demand you find some real scientists who allow real solutions.

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