BREAKING: Minnesota governor vetoes bill to exempt co-ops from regulation

The solar industry won an enormous victory in Minnesota today, when Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed legislation that would have allowed the state's rural electric co-ops to charge solar customers any fees they deemed necessary, with no oversight from the state.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, for the win!

Within the last hour, Dayton vetoed a reconciled bill that solar advocates feared it would provide the state’s electrical co-ops with the right to create a separate rate class for solar customers with exorbitant fees.

HF 234/SF 141 would have removed the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) authority to regulate the state’s six  generation-and-transmission cooperatives (G&Ts). In essence, the bill would allow electrical co-ops to set their own fee structures without state oversight, if co-op boards passed resolutions to do so.

The new legislation would have allowed the co-ops to charge solar consumers arbitrary fees without anyone looking over their shoulders, and consumers couldn’t appeal to the PUC. Instead, the only way to challenge such fees would be third-party arbitration. According to the Harvard Business Review, mandated arbitration often functions like a private court system, with a built-in bias toward the business entity in the case.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which took an active role in lobbying Dayton in the days leading up to the veto, applauded the decision.

“SEIA and the solar industry commend Governor Dayton for vetoing legislation that would have stripped rural Minnesota residents of critical consumer protection and hindered solar’s growth in the state,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for SEIA. “In doing so, Dayton stood up for both consumers and economic growth.”

“Due to policies championed by the Governor, Minnesota emerged as a national leader in solar energy last year,” Gallagher added. “The state installed more community solar than any other state in the country. The Governor’s decision ensures that more Minnesotans can access solar energy and that clean energy jobs continue to grow.”

The veto is the latest in a line of impressivelypositive policy solar in Minnesota. In February,  legislators introduced a bill that, if passed, would raise the Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) to 50% by 2030, and Xcel added 32 MW of solar gardens online as part of a larger project to bring 96 MW of community solar to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. It also announced aggressive solar-expansion plans by 2030.