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Omnibus energy bill approved

Published (4/10/2009)
By Sue Hegarty
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For members of the House Energy Finance and Policy Division, energy is becoming a variable resource prefaced with adjectives such as: biogas, C-BED, geothermal, green, hydroelectric, renewable, solar and wind.

On the heels of defeating a bill that would have lifted a moratorium on nuclear energy plants, the division, chaired by Rep. Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson), approved its omnibus energy finance and policy bills April 2. The finance bill, HF1754, was laid over for possible inclusion in the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division omnibus bill. The policy bill, HF863 awaits action by the House Ways and Means Committee.

Also on April 6, the Senate passed its energy omnibus bill, SF550 sponsored by Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon (DFL-Duluth). Approved 52-15, the bill includes language that would lift the nuclear power moratorium.

Carrying language from more than two dozen bills, the proposed House legislation includes a $55 million appropriation from the General Fund to implement energy policies and programs.

One policy cornerstone that emerged was energy conservation.

Rep. Jeremy Kalin (DFL-North Branch) successfully incorporated one of his bills that would require the Public Utilities Commission to make conservation a utility’s most profitable business initiative. In essence, utilities would become service providers for a whole menu of options, including conservation.

Another cornerstone of the omnibus bill focuses on renewable energy initiatives.

A policy bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) was incorporated that would encourage the use of solar energy and the combustion of grasses, agricultural wastes, trees and other vegetation to produce thermal energy for heating buildings and for industrial processes.

One recognized problem with wind and solar energy production methods is that it can be intermittent. The bill would provide the University of Minnesota with $5 million to develop energy storage capabilities and analyze what types of policies are needed to implement emerging energy technology.

In anticipation of the Central Corridor rail line construction between St. Paul and Minneapolis, legislation proposed by Rep. Sheldon Johnson (DFL-St. Paul) was included that would enable Xcel Energy to create a multi-source mapping of electricity for the corridor, including residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Xcel Energy officials said the zone could become a national model for developing metropolitan transit zones.

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