Republican roadblocks for renewable energy designed to please the fossil fuel industry

It is not too early to predict that this will be the least productive legislative session ever. And since that probably means none of the Republican energy proposals will become law, that is all to the good.

Rep. Garofalo chairs the energy committee so we can safely say that the proposals in his bill are the Republican proposals. He also co-chairs Minnesota ALEC so we can also safely say that he wants to please the fossil fuel industry. He does not disappoint. Let us count the ways:

1. The bill prohibits state agencies from spending any money to produce a state plan for reduced carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants as required by the Federal Clean Power Plan. The coal industry must be particularly pleased with this provision.

2. The bill says the municipal utilities and electric cooperatives can have a zero goal of annual energy savings. Most of their electricity is generated from coal so the coal industry would be pleased with this, too.

3. The bill puts a cap on the amount that Xcel is required to put in the Renewable Development Fund. This means that there will be less money available for supporting renewable energy projects including the Made in MN Solar rebate program.

4. The bill exempts sales of natural gas and electricity to pipelines as a way to reduce the conservation spending requirements for a utility and prohibits a pipeline facility from participating in a utility conservation program.

5. The bill prohibits a site permit from being granted to a solar project if the developer will cut down at least 75% of the trees in a 3 acre area. The author of the amendment, Rep. O’Neill was asked if she would also want to put this restriction on a commercial development or an agriculture development. She declined.

These provisions are included in an omnibus bill, HF 3931, that is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, April 27. More later.

Cheaper, more efficient solar. Rep. Pat Garofalo says no. Chalk up another gift to fossil fuel folks.

It is well known that the Koch brothers and their fellow fossil fuel barons continue to undermine renewable energy. Los Angles Times

Roof top solar, in particular, terrifies them.The Washington Post Their worry, of course, is that solar will become as cheap or cheaper than wind energy which is already out competing their fossil fuel assets.

Legislation targeting solar is being pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC, a non profit supported by the Kochs. Our own Rep. Pat Garofalo, chair of the House energy committee, is Minnesota State Co-chair of ALEC. So when the Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources unamiously recommended a University of Minnesota proposal for a grant from lottery proceeds to develop more efficient and cheaper solar cells, Rep. Garofalo said no.

The proposal from a professor in the U’s Department of Mechanical Engineering is particularly innovative and useful. It is also cutting edge, using a material that is lighter, cheaper and more efficient than silica. The money from lottery proceeds will be used to develop the techniques needed and field test the new photovoltaic material. This is the very basic research that the U does well and our industries depend on.

The proposal was taken out of the LCCMR bill in the House environment committee but is still in the Senate’s LCCMR bill.