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Energy programs could get a charge out of conference committee report

Remember that Apple ad campaign that repeatedly said, “There’s an app for that?” Well, if you’re wondering what part you can play in slowing climate change, the climate and energy portion of the environment, natural resources, climate and energy conference committee report could inspire an ad campaign with the refrain, “There’s a grant for that.”

Want to weatherize your house? There will be a grant for that. Do you wish to upgrade your home’s electric panel? Yup, a grant for that. And if you want to install one of those energy-saving heat pumps in your home, the agreement has not only a grant for that, but a rebate program, too.

Those are all elements in the conference committee report on HF2310 — sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) and Sen. Foung Hawj (DFL-St. Paul) — approved by the conference committee late Tuesday, presented to the public Wednesday morning, and headed to the House Floor.

While conferees reached agreement on the bill’s environment and natural resources provisions Friday, it took a little longer for the chairs of the committees overseeing energy policy — Rep. Patty Acomb (DFL-Minnetonka) and Sen. Nick Frentz (DFL-North Mankato) — to resolve differences in energy-related appropriations and policy between the House and Senate bills.

For items related to energy and climate change, the bill contains $282.3 million in net appropriations from the General Fund and $110.8 million from the Renewable Development Account. That state-administered account is designed to support renewable energy projects and is made up of money that Xcel Energy pays to the state for being able to store nuclear waste at its Prairie Island and Monticello nuclear power plants.

“The conference committee report recognizes the importance of addressing climate change,” Acomb said. “It establishes programs and opportunities that make Minnesota competitive when applying for federal funds. And it prioritizes equity and invests in low-income communities to be able to participate in the solutions around climate change. I think this bill touches every corner of Minnesota.”

“Minnesotans want energy that’s clean, reliable and affordable,” Frentz said. “Clean, more and more to the Senate, means carbon emissions. … Reliable has to do with things in the bill like resiliency grants and other ways we try to prevent loss of service to Minnesotans. And obviously affordable: Minnesotans want us to keep the prices down wherever possible. We do that, if we can, by finding efficiencies in programs that are already in place and programs that are enhanced in the bill.”

[MORE: View a spreadsheet]

Here are the largest budget items proposed for the 2024-25 biennium, with the money either coming from the General Fund, the Renewable Development Account, or a combination of the two:

  • pre-weatherization and workforce training, $38.7 million;
  • Solar for Schools, $29.3 million;
  • Minnesota Climate Finance Authority, $20 million;
  • electric vehicle rebates, $15.7 million;
  • high-voltage transmission line to North Dakota, $15 million;
  • electric school bus grants, $13 million;
  • distributed energy upgrade grants, $10.2 million;
  • University of St. Thomas microgrid, $7.5 million;
  • heat pump grants, $7 million;
  • Department of Agriculture green fertilizer production facilities, $7 million;
  • residential electric panel grants, $6.5 million;
  • heat pump rebate program, $6 million;
  • electric grid resiliency grants, $5.3 million;
  • solar on public buildings, $5 million;
  • National Sports Center solar array, $4.2 million;
  • energy storage incentive grants, $4 million;
  • maintain current service levels at the Public Utilities Commission, $3.3 million;
  • Minnesota Energy Alley, $3 million;
  • on-site energy storage systems, $3 million; and
  • local climate action grants, $3 million.

Included in the total General Fund climate and energy appropriations is $115 million for a State Competitiveness Fund designed to match federal grants for renewable energy projects. It was signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz on April 18.

Most policy differences between the two bills that needed to be resolved were related to new programs like an electric school bus deployment program and modifications to existing ones like community solar gardens. The final bill also modifies the agreement between the state, Xcel Energy and the Prairie Island Indian Community.

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