Regulatory Work Overview:

MnSEIP engages in appropriate regulatory work to help foster and promote a growing solar industry in Minnesota. The solar industry in Minnesota is still relatively young, and strong state and federal policy is critical to encourage businesses, homeowners, schools, non-profits, government agencies, and more to invest in and deploy solar projects. Positive policy means more solar projects, and therefore more jobs, more economic benefits for homeowners, the community, and businesses, and a cleaner, healthier state. 

 

Current and Ongoing Work:

MnSEIP, under the direction of attorney and development director David Shaffer, is assisting with cases for members challenging high fixed fees imposed by different Minnesota co-ops on solar installations. Due to a new state law that went into effect this year, co-ops can charge high fixed fees to customers with solar arrays that are less than 40 kW. Minnesota has some of the highest co-op charges in the country, according to Allen Gleckner of Fresh Energy. When one of the major benefits of solar is the energy savings homeowners can realize, adding high fixed fees detracts from the customers' earning potential and therefore takes them longer to pay off their installation. This discourages homeowners from installing solar. 

The fixed charges affect solar that has been installed after July 1, 2015 in co-op territory. The Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) reports that 10 co-ops have already applied the fee and 10 more will follow in the next few months. Co-ops serve over 1.8 million Minnesota members across a territory that covers over 85% of the state. Co-ops say that the spread-out nature of their territory raises their costs of delivering services, necessitating higher fixed charges.  

David Shaffer says that a high fixed charge “decreases the cost-effectiveness of solar arrays and elongates the payback period. Selling solar is based on the payback. If you get payback in under 10 years it’s a great deal, but if it’s beyond 10 years it gets more difficult. Fixed charges cut into the viability of selling solar in those (rural) areas because financially it doesn’t make sense.” Shaffer argues that rural co-ops used to have lower fixed charges, and all the new legislation will do is hurt the solar industry.

Changing these fixed fees is critical to promoting more solar deployment in rural Minnesota. MnSEIP will continue to assist with this case in order to save solar customers money and encourage solar adoption in MN.

Read our feature in Energy News Network! "Minnesota co-ops rolling out high fixed high charge for solar customers

 

Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Project (MnSEIP)