Omnibus energy bill passes House, heads for Senate

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Additional aid for low-income electricity customers, added protections for propane purchasers and a loan repayment program for homeowners who want to make energy-efficient improvements are among measures included in an omnibus energy bill passed Tuesday off the House floor.

Following the 85-45 vote, HF2834, sponsored by Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park), now heads to the Senate, where Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) is the sponsor.

Hortman cited support from both the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and green energy advocates in calling the legislation “a very bipartisan bill that has got a broad base of support.”

Comprised of nearly a dozen bills that were heard in the House Energy Policy Committee in recent months, the bill includes provisions that would:

  • establish an annual $8 million base funding level for an electric rate discount program operated by Xcel Energy and require base funding to increase in line with residential electricity rates approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission;
  • prohibit homeowner’s associations from barring townhome owners who own their rooftops from installing solar panels should the energy systems meet certain conditions;
  • permit residential and commercial electric customers, utilities and lenders to enter into agreements that would allow customers to repay loans for energy efficient improvements or renewable energy sources through their utility bills; and
  • require utilities to establish and offer a time-of-day electricity rate for charging electric motor vehicles, a move the bill’s advocates say would encourage owners to charge their cars at off-peak hours.

Amendments adopted during floor debate included:

  • measures that would extend an energy renewable incentive payment eligibility for on-farm biogas recovery facilities until 2017; and
  • additional protections for propane customers following last winter’s propane shortage that include requirements for budget repayment plans for all customers, clearly posted prices and regulations on fees.

Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park, right) sponsors HF2834.