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Mekeland: Solar program a behemoth subsidy for out-of-state corporations

Friday, February 28, 2020

ST. PAUL – State Rep. Shane Mekeland, R-Clear Lake, on Friday strongly condemned a bill that would expand the state’s community solar program, saying the initiative has strayed too far from its original purpose.

Mekeland serves on the House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division and voiced opposition to the bill (H.F. 3368) as the committee approved it Thursday night.

“This is what happens with too many government programs,” Mekeland said. “You start out with one idea and, the next thing you know, it takes on a life of its own and grows to heights never intended. This program was designed so renters and others who cannot install rooftop solar panels could participate through co-ops. Now this has become behemoth subsidy program that benefits out-of-state corporations at the expense of Minnesota consumers.

“Xcel Energy indicates 87 percent of existing gardens are owned by out-of-state corporations and says the program imposes an extra $143 million per year in costs on electricity customers. Xcel says solar gardens provide only 3 percent of Xcel’s electricity, but represent 21 percent of the utility’s fuel costs.”

Mekeland also said solar gardens are not displacing coal and natural gas power but are crowding out cheaper and more efficient solar power alternatives – costing more than triple the rates charged by competing technology.

“This whole thing is a scam, as far as I am concerned,” Mekeland said. “We need to get this program back to its intended purpose because what’s happening now isn’t it and expanding it even further would be absurd. I fully support an all-of-the-above approach to energy and this program is the wrong way to go about it.”

The committee’s Democrat majority approved the bill on a party-line vote, sending the proposal to its next stop in the House process.


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