Electric Cooperatives Prepared for MN Legislative Session

COVID-19 response, budget issues to be addressed

As the 2021 Minnesota legislative session begins, there is no question that lawmakers will be focused on dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing a projected two-year budget deficit of up to $5 billion. 

Compromise will be the key strategy as Minnesota has the only divided legislature in the country. Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) will need to work with the DFL-controlled House and the Senate, which holds a Republican majority.

Political engagement is embedded in the history of electric cooperatives. It has often been said that electric cooperatives were born in politics and if they die, they will die in politics. Over the years, North Star Electric Cooperative has partnered with other electric cooperatives around the state to develop an effective grassroots political outreach program to ensure member voices are heard on important energy issues.

Here are three priorities that North Star will be pursuing during the 2021 legislative session.

Advocate for ECO act

Electric cooperatives are encouraging passage of the Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act, which modernizes and reforms the state’s outdated Conservation Improvement Program (CIP). 

Minnesota’s current CIP regulations, which were established in 2007, require utilities to reduce electricity usage by 1.5% annually. The program does not recognize the benefits of efficient electrification of end-use processes, such as the adoption of electric vehicles and other emerging technologies. The ECO Act emphasizes end-use total energy efficiency rather than narrowly focusing on reducing electricity use. Members will still see great programs to help them install new electric technologies, save money and use energy wisely.

Address load control receiver requirements

Load management equipment allows utilities to reduce demand for electricity during peak usage times, which reduces the cost for consumers and provides environmental benefits. The Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) now requires electric co-ops to file a permit and be subject to inspection each time they replace a load control receiver, even though co-ops were not required to do so in the past. While DOLI has agreed to lower the cost of the permit to $20 (from the original $36) and has also agreed not to require permits for door swaps, the new fee will be cost prohibitive and could put cooperatives’ load management programs at risk. 

Monitor Clean Energy First and carbon-free energy proposals

Electric cooperatives will be closely monitoring potential legislation that would require 100% of a utility’s generation portfolio to be carbon free and other standards that would dictate that utilities must select carbon-free resources before any other resources. Any decisions regarding the energy transition must include electric cooperatives and take into account technological capabilities, reliability and affordability.

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