The worst energy bill ever sabotages solar. And that’s not all.

Rep. Pat Garofalo has introduced his draft Omnibus Energy Bill. d0b80283-da3f-4839-baf9-551613c2b6d9.pdf   Since he is Chair of the House Jobs Creation and Energy Affordability Committee, his bill is the Republican bill.

The Garofalo bill incorporates the energy-related ideas and bills that had been heard in his committee. Rep. Garofalo then found more bad ideas to include. This post would be much too long if it did more than scratch the surface. So it just covers the worst of the worst. Two of the worst of the worst were presented earlier in committee so there are earlier and more detailed posts about them. The earlier posts are noted below.

In summary, Rep. Garofalo’s bill would dismantle most of Minnesota’s efforts to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by repealing the laws that support these efforts. He totally sabotages solar.

In 62 pages he does a lot more, like proposing to make gifts to coal, the Koch brothers, and people wealthy enough to buy electric cars.

Before the worst of the worst, the back story needs to be told. The fight brewing in Minnesota is just one of many happening across the U.S. In an article entitled “Utilities wage campaign against rooftop solar,” The Washington Post reported on the campaign by utitlites and its fossil-fuel supporters to stop residential solar. The Post says that legislation to make net metering illegal or more expensive has been introduced in legislatures in nearly two dozen states. The Los Angeles Times article, “Koch brothers, big utilities attack solar, green energy policies” links the effort against net metering to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch brothers.

The worst of the worst:

One, the bill would repeal the quantitative state goals for reducing green house gas emissions and says the state should reduce green house gas emisssions “in an affordable manner.” Whatever that means.

Two, the bill would allow either the Minnesota House or Senate to veto the plan that is now in the process of being developed by the Dayton administration to significantly reduce carbon emissions in our energy sector by 2020 and 2030. The plan is being developed in response to the EPA’s proposed rule on carbon. Since the bill would allow the House or Senate to veto any other carbon reduction plan that might be developed, the bill is not a negotiating tactic, rather it’s designed for gridlock. (The post, “Coal: the Republican answer to global warming,” has details.)

This new strategy of trying to give the legislative branch veto power over an action taken by the executive branch is a product of ALEC, which gets a lot of its financial support from the fossil fuel industry. (The post, “New Republican Strategy: redesign government for the benefit of polluters”, has details.)

Three, the bill would repeal current law prohibiting (1) importing electricity from new coal fired plants in other states, and  (2) long-term agreements to purchase power from sources that would increase statewide carbon dioxide emissions. These  prohibitions were part of the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 and were designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Left in the law is a prohibition of construction of new coal-fired plants in Minnesota. The upshot is that electricity from new coal-fired plants would be imported from other states where Minnesota has no control over emissions. (The post, “Vote repeals a critical part of landmark 2007 Next Generation Energy Act”, has details.)

Four, the bill would repeal the energy improvement program that has successfully reduced inefficiencies by electric users.  We do not know how much inefficiency is embedded in all of the things we do that require energy. It does seem that our utilities are dependent on a lot of inefficiency for their revenue.

Five, the bill would repeal the moratorium on new nuclear power plant construction.

Six, the last thing to highlight is by no means the least. The bill comes down hard on all things solar. It would allow the solar energy standard to be met  “through the use of solar energy or any other more affordable eligible energy technology” which, of course, is intended to gut the solar standard. The bill would also end the solar energy incentive program and change net metering.

The argument used by utilities and its fossil fuel friends against net metering is that it shifts costs to other rate payers. The anti-solar folks brought a witness from Boston to Rep. Garofalo’s committee who made that argument. However, he was very selective in the data he used and excluded the solar benefits of reducing air pollution and greenhouse gasses. Our Pollution Controal Agency estimates that air pollution costs Minnesota $30 billion a year. The “b” is not a typo.

2 Responses to “The worst energy bill ever sabotages solar. And that’s not all.”

  1. Christine Wehrman Says:

    As an individual and also as pastor of a congregation fiercely called to Creation Care, I OPPOSE the drafted Omnibus Energy Bill put forward by Rep. Pat Garofalo. The bill would dismantle most of Minnesota’s efforts to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by repealing the laws that support these efforts.

    I urge opposition and defeat of this bill.

    Thank you,
    Rev. Chris Kliesen Wehrman
    Prospect Park United Methodist Church

  2. jay nygard Says:

    There is a very important issue coming up for a legislative vote which pertains to all Minnesotans or electrical users in Minnesota, the Omnibus Jobs and Energy Bill passed in committee Friday, April 10, would dismantle most of Minnesota’s efforts to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by significantly weakening or repealing the laws that support these efforts. One of the most important regulations being changed, which has been successfully implemented nearly nationwide, is called “net metering”.

    Net metering is what allows me, as a small renewable energy producer, to store the excess energy I produce during optimal production periods for use at a later time when my energy needs exceed my production (such as at night for solar). Net metering requires the power companies to accept any electrical production from small producers onto the grid to be distributed to neighbors or others close by when it is produced, then to return that electricity on a 1 for 1 basis free of charge when it is needed by the producer. Basically, net metering requires the power companies to act as an “electrical storage bank” for small producers, thus allowing for the capture of all energy possible when it is available. This is not a free service either, as all power producers pay a monthly fee to the power companies to hook up to the grid and operate their systems. The only other common method to capture this energy for later use would be by having a battery bank that stores the power.

    The most bizarre aspect of this proposed change in regulations by the power companies is that the energy is typically being produced while the electric companies have the highest demand (during the daytime). Thus protecting the grid and our energy supply by helping to stabilize the entire grid with many pockets of local electricity production, reducing the need for redlining our grid during peak use times. Many parts of the country now experience “brown outs” due to heavy daytime electrical use, which a plethora of small producers spread around the area, can help prevent. I am personally a big fan of on-site energy production as there are very few losses between a local system and it’s user, which cannot be said for power plants or large commercial solar and wind farms. A very large part of the electricity produced by the big producers never makes it to the customer due to losses along the way. Just imagine how much extra coal or natural gas must be burned to account for these losses.

    I believe that our future as our country grows is not in it’s ability to build bigger and better power plants and grids, but by empowering the small producers to take their future into their own hands and capturing the energy readily available to all via wind, solar or other sources. I have had to deal with many of the realities facing renewable energies in my fight to bring micro wind power to our communities, but this is one issue I did not think I would even have to consider as we move forward. Minnesota has been a leader in the renewable energy field for many years, and now is not the time to revert to old policies.

    The loss of net metering is a game changer for the “small” renewable energy industry and it’s clients which makes no sense from a practical stand point, stifles one’s ability to go renewable and gives the leverage back to the power companies (some of the last true monopolies left in our society) over the small producer. Instead of returning to fossil fuels, Minnesota should be moving forward by increasing our Renewable Energy Standard, not squelching it.

    If you agree that we should be aiming away from fossil fuels as I do, then please do what I did and contact your legislators and let them know what you think.

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