Bill mandating solar energy from utility companies passes Senate

May 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

by Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio

ST. PAUL, Minn.
A bill that would require investor-owned utilities to provide at least 1 percent of their power through solar generation by late 2025 has been approved in the Minnesota Senate.

Republicans have argued the requirement would be costly for residents and businesses.

Customers are more likely to see their rates go up because of increasing costs of fossil fuels and nuclear power, Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said. Marty implored his colleagues to think about Minnesota’s long-term energy future.

“That’s not something we do in politics, because long-term thinking — it’s often said in politics — is the next election. That’s how we think about things,” Marty said. “What can we do to show results before we have to stand for re-election again. Trying to do something for the next 100 years — that’s kind of hard to think about.”

The House and Senate must work out their differences before sending the legislation to Gov. Mark Dayton. The House version calls for a 4 percent solar energy standard, and the Senate version exempts mining facilities and paper mills.

Republican senators tried to excuse other large commercial customers from the standard, but their amendments failed.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, characterized global warming as slow process and questioned whether Minnesota’s standard would have much effect.

“Really, quite frankly, Minnesotans, do you think that we can make that difference in Minnesota by ourselves? I don’t think so. And I don’t think so either when we’re in tough times, when money’s strapped,” Ingebrigtsen said. “This is enough of this global warming scare. Let’s get back to the business of taking care of things that need to be taken care of.”

Democrats pushing for the bill countered that Minnesota residents and businesses are already being hit with the rising costs of generating non-renewable energy.

Elizabeth Dunbar

Elizabeth Dunbar is a general assignment reporter for MPR News.

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