For Minnesotans struggling to pay energy bills, bill offers more certainty

Pam Marshall, executive director of the Energy CENTS Coalition, right, and Patrick Boland manager of credit policy at Xcel Energy, testify before the House Energy Policy Committee March 3 during discussion of a bill sponsored by Rep. Yvonne Selcer, center, to regulate low-income residential electric customer programs. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)

Lawmakers could soon vote on another measure aimed at guaranteeing energy assistance to Minnesota’s low-income residents.

The House Energy Policy Committee approved a bill Monday, sponsored by Rep. Yvonne Selcer (DFL-Minnetonka), which would establish an annual $8 million base funding level for an electric rate discount program operated by Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility.

Between 60,000 and 70,000 Xcel Energy customers are part of a low-income energy assistance program through the state’s largest utility each year, an Xcel spokesperson told lawmakers. It is a program, said Pam Marshall, the executive director of Energy CENTS Coalition, which “targets the very lowest of income levels.”

The program is funded through fees paid by Xcel Energy customers and aimed at low-income Minnesotans who are part of the government-funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

HF2466 would also require base funding to increase in line with residential electricity rates approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission. Currently, the program is funded at the level needed to provide a 50 percent discount on the first 400kWh consumed each month by low-income customers.

“We’ve already seen the commitment from this Legislature” to help low-income Minnesotans with energy costs, Selcer said, referring to a bill signed into law last week that provides $20 million in emergency heating assistance funds. “This is another great way to help those in need.”

The legislation is now poised for consideration by the full House. A Senate companion, SF2092, sponsored by Sen. D. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls), awaits action by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

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    Jonathan Avise's picture
    Jonathan Avise