On May 22, the Minnesota Legislature concluded its 2018 regular session. During this session CEE collaborated with other organizations in support of policies to advance energy efficiency.
Most of this session’s energy initiatives were passed to Governor Dayton in a massive omnibus bill. But the Governor vetoed the so-called “Omnibus Prime” bill, citing the complications of intertwining funding recommendations together with policy changes — in addition to the bill’s sheer size (990 pages) and scope, which included several controversial items.
Nonetheless, CEE’s three priorities for the 2018 session all succeeded:
Reauthorize residential PACE in Minnesota with nation-leading consumer protections.
Status: Signed into law on May 19 by Governor Dayton, this bill received nearly unanimous passage in both chambers.
Description: Residential PACE (“Property Assessed Clean Energy”) is a clean energy financing mechanism, enabling homeowners to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies with financing repayments obtained through local property tax assessments. Residential PACE has been primarily used in California and Florida, which are both responding currently to consumer abuses that arose from residential PACE’s implementation. In the 2017 legislative session, we worked in coalition with the Legal Services Advocacy Project, Minnesota Realtors, the Minnesota Bankers Association, the Minnesota Credit Union Network, and others to suspend the authorization for residential PACE in Minnesota until adequate consumer protections were implemented.
In the summer and fall of 2017, our coalition participated in a working group led by the Minnesota Department of Commerce to evaluate residential PACE and identify the consumer protections needed for Minnesotans. Although that working group was unable to come to resolution on a package of consumer protections, our coalition worked with Sen. Eric Pratt, Sen. John Marty, Rep. John O’Driscoll, and others to enact the most comprehensive residential PACE consumer protections in the nation.
Passage of Clean Energy Financing Initiative – MN Housing Financing Agency
Status: Signed into law on May 19, this bill was added to the R-PACE (Residential Property Assessed Clean Energy) legislation, but is a separate additional suite of clean energy financing opportunities for Minnesota.
Description: Introduced as a standalone bill for CEE by chief authors Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Frank Hornstein, this provision was later amended onto the residential PACE legislation described above. It accomplished two things: 1) It updates the energy efficient and renewable energy technologies eligible for financing through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA), including air source or geothermal heat pump repair, maintenance, or replacement, as well as on-site solar and energy storage; and 2) It authorizes (but does not require) the use of MFHA funds in approved utility on-bill repayment programs.
CEE developed this legislative initiative to broaden the energy efficient and renewable technologies available for low-cost financing through the MFHA state-wide lending network, and to integrate this low-cost financing into a convenient repayment program for utility consumers.
Protect the state's Conservation Improvement Program
Status: Legislative initiatives were introduced that CEE believed would undermine the state’s Conservation Improvement Program, which is widely considered to be Minnesota’s most successful energy policy. The initiatives were not heard this session in the Senate or House Energy Committees.
Description: Two bills introduced this session attempted to alter Minnesota’s energy efficiency statute, the Conservation Improvement Program (CIP). The first bill would have increased the number of large energy consumers eligible to opt out of participating in CIP. The second would have increased the number of electric cooperatives and municipalities exempt from participating in CIP. These changes would have reduced participation, benefits, and the overall effectiveness of CIP, and also would have increased energy costs for all utility customers.
CEE strongly opposed any changes to CIP in the 2018 legislative session, and initiated a coalition with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Citizen’s Utility Board, Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, Minnesota Electrical Association, Minnesota Mechanical Contractors Association, and the National Electrical Contractors Association. Our organizations composed a joint letter asking legislators to hold off on making changes to CIP pending the outcome of the Statewide Natural Gas and Electric Energy-Efficiency and Carbon-Sav..., and we and other affected organizations met with legislators to explain our mutual concerns. Over the course of the summer and fall of 2018, we are working to develop a package of improvements to CIP that will help the program continue to provide great value to Minnesota utility consumers.
We’re proud of our decades-long achievements in advancing consumer-focused clean energy policy in Minnesota at the local, state, and national levels.
And we’re thankful for all the hardworking energy contractors, community leaders, lawmakers, and other key allies who helped move Minnesota forward this year with clean energy financing and Residential PACE, and who protected the state’s Conservation Improvement Program. We couldn’t have achieved our priorities without these wonderful allies.