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Minnesota debates solar jobs bill

Minnesota Capitol buildingThe Minnesota state legislature is debating The Solar Energy Jobs Act of 2013, which would mandate 10 percent of the state’s energy Solar energy advocates on Tuesday proposed a wide-ranging piece of legislation to the House Energy Policy Committee that would mandate the state generates 10 percent of its electricity with solar technology by 2030.

The bill, HF773, was sponsored by Rep. Will Morgan (D) and includes a number of measures aimed at promoting solar energy. “It will strengthen the solar industry that is already present in the state and attract more solar business to the state,” Morgan said.

The bill would require utilities to pay solar energy generators a “value of solar” payment calculated by the Department of Commerce. It would also would authorize Minnesota’s commerce commissioner to create a solar energy production incentive and would call for studies on solar and thermal energy, and the use of on-site energy storage systems, according to the Minnesota House of Representatives.

The bill is unique in that the 10 percent level for solar would be in addition to the state’s existing 25 percent renewable energy goal of 2025. While other states like California and Colorado have solar carve-outs, this is likely the highest proposed at this point. “There would be a relatively modest ramp up to about 2.5 percent solar by 2022, accelerating up to 10 percent by 2030,” Senior Researcher John Farrell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) told Greentech media earlier this month.

The legislation is backed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Their union leader, Andrew Snopes, testified the bill would spur roughly $230 million in investments and create about 2,000 solar jobs within the first year of the legislation’s effectiveness.

The bill however, is facing criticism from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility. The Chamber of Commerce testified that the bill would amount to a tax on ratepayers. And, Rick Evans, Xcel’s director of regional government affairs, said, “Solar is a very expensive way to reduce carbon production.”

At this point the bill has not made it out of committee, but it could be some of the most far-reaching solar legislation introduced in the country this year. 

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