Minnesota coalition backs RPS of 10% by 2010

Jan. 26, 2001—Energy issues are receiving significant attention in the Minnesota legislature this year, with three major energy bills set to be introduced this session.

While no single bill is likely to be adopted as introduced, a new coalition is hopeful that many elements of their version, the “Energy Reliability and Affordability Act of 2001,” will become law. The proposal includes a renewables portfolio standard (RPS) for Minnesota which would require that 10% of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by the year 2010.

The POWER (People Organized for Workers, the Environment and Ratepayers) Campaign includes consumer, labor and environmental groups who are calling for “a sensible energy policy that promotes a reliable, affordable, clean supply of electricity.”

Current projections are that Minnesota will be short 3,000 MW of capacity by 2006, the group said, adding that it believes the legislature must take steps to address the issue during the 2001 session. POWER said it supports a bill from the Minnesota Department of Commerce on statewide energy planning, but also advocates that the state “should get busy with things that we can do today —- cost effective energy efficiency and conservation, wind power, and community energy systems.”

The POWER coalition unveiled a strategy to meet the projected 3,000 MW capacity requirement at a press conference January 22. Under the POWER bill, additional capacity is provided by a mix of renewable energy (primarily wind power), energy efficiency, distributed generation and repowering old coal plants with cleaner fuels.

POWER bill provisions also include: 10% of Minnesota’s electricity being supplied by renewables by 2010 (with credit trading); an annual reliability assessment of electric service and infrastructure; funding for an energy efficiency program (replaces the current utility-operated conservation program); a universal service program to make bills more affordable for low-income households; converting polluting coal plants to cleaner fuels (including tax incentives for conversion); assurances to retain qualified workers in proposed sales of utilities; electric service quality standards; and increases in clean electric technologies (distributed generation, combined heat and power, community energy systems).

While the legislative initiative is comprehensive and extensive, the POWER coalition said it believes that the broad support represented by its constituent groups should result in bipartisan support in the legislature. The chairs of the House and Senate energy committees are the two chief sponsors of the legislation.