FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For media inquiries, please contact: Hannah Arndt, Solar United Neighbors Communications Associate
Saint Paul, Minn. (5/19/2023) – Yesterday the Minnesota Legislature passed legislation that will increase access to clean energy across the state. A coalition of clean energy advocates celebrates these new policies, which will bring the cost-saving and job-creating benefits of local solar to more Minnesotans.
“We applaud the leaders in the House and Senate for passing legislation that makes solar possible for more Minnesotans of all income levels, whether it is on their own home, farm, or business, or as part of a community solar garden,” says Bobby King, Minnesota State Director at Solar United Neighbors. “The bill has millions dedicated to promoting distributed solar, keeps HOA’s from blocking solar, has help for getting people interconnected to the grid to go solar, and more. All of this allows more Minnesotans to realize the economic benefits of producing renewable solar power.”
“The legislation passed yesterday will build off the 100% Carbon-Free Electricity Law from earlier this year and help make sure our energy isn’t just clean, but that it’s also directly benefiting the most impacted Minnesotans,” says Jenna Warmuth, Midwest Regional Director at Vote Solar. “We’re excited that the Legislature recognized the need to center access and equity in our energy transition. Decarbonization on its own is not enough, and yesterday’s victory is a major step toward ensuring everyone can reap the rewards of a clean energy economy.”
“The Sierra Club commends the Minnesota Legislature for its achievement in passing groundbreaking clean energy legislation that paves the way for a more sustainable future,” remarks Patty O’Keefe, Senior Campaign Representative at the Sierra Club, North Star Chapter. “This legislation not only accelerates the transition to clean energy but also helps ensure the benefits of this transition reach all Minnesotans, particularly those historically marginalized and disproportionately impacted by pollution and energy poverty. At a time when our solutions to climate change and social injustice must intersect, this legislation stands as a shining example of how we can begin to build a resilient and inclusive clean energy economy.”
The legislation passed yesterday includes many provisions that supporters of equitable local solar have been advocating for. New policies will:
- Provide funding to the Minnesota Climate Innovation Finance Authority (MnCIFA) to finance clean energy projects.
- Support access to community solar for low- and moderate-income households.
- Incentivize adoption of energy storage and rooftop solar, particularly by low-income customers.
- Guarantee households’ right to install rooftop solar panels without arbitrary restrictions from homeowners associations.
- Help clean energy projects connect to the electric grid.
- Provide compensation for public-interest organizations to participate in utility regulatory proceedings.
“MnCIFA connects neighborhoods, businesses, farms, and families with the financial tools they need to become part of Minnesota’s transition to a renewable energy economy. This is how we supercharge Minnesota’s green energy future — through ensuring that all Minnesotans can address their community needs with green projects,” says Liz Loeb, Acting Executive Director at Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light. “The status quo has left too many of us by the wayside. By expanding access to renewable energy financing, MnCIFA moves us forward towards a Minnesota where everyone, no matter their background, race, or zip code, can thrive.”
“Though it has some compromises, we thank the House and the Senate for agreeing on yesterday’s legislation, which will ensure that organizations like Cooperative Energy Futures can continue to build community solar gardens that benefit low-income households, renters, and communities of color,” remarks Pouya Najmaie, Policy Director at Cooperative Energy Futures. “This bill ensures low-to- moderate income residents are paid fairly for the electricity they provide to the grid. Community solar gardens are essential to ensure that everyone can access solar’s bill savings and wealth building opportunities, not just those who are fortunate enough to put panels on their roof.”
The new legislation leaves plenty of room for improvement, however, according to the clean energy advocates. Policymakers will need to address their priorities in the next legislative session.
“While this legislation includes key wins for the climate and clean energy, we need legislators to do more to guarantee equitable access to local clean energy for all Minnesotans — regardless of their income, the color of their skin, or where they live — and to rein in the big utilities that want to block local solar and its contribution to our clean energy goals.”, remarks John Farrell, Co-Director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, who also noted that Xcel Energy had been fined a pittance by the state’s Public Utilities Commission for delays connecting solar projects to the grid.
The advocates urge Governor Tim Walz to quickly sign the legislation into law.
About the Minnesota Climate and Clean Energy Equity Network
The Minnesota Climate and Clean Energy Equity Network is a collection of organizations convened after the 2022 election to ensure that the benefits of the clean energy transition accrue to all Minnesotans, not just the big utility corporations. We share a common goal of advancing energy democracy, equity, and justice, including through equitable local solar.
Participating organizations include:
- Cooperative Energy Futures
- Minneapolis Climate Action
- Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light
- Sierra Club, North Star Chapter
- Solar United Neighbors
- The Institute for Local Self-Reliance
- Vote Climate
- Vote Solar