At the beginning of February, Bluestem posted Inspired by ALEC bill? Beard, Draz & Franson hating on MN renewable energy standards, which looked at an ALEC copycat bill introduced by ALEC member Mike Beard (R-Shakopee) and co-sponsored by ALEC-member Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) and Mary Franson (R-Alexandria).
In messages exchanged with Franson, Bluestem learned that she is not an ALEC member, but co-sponsored the bill at the urging of the Minnesota Rural Electrification Association (REA) and Otter Tail Power Company of Fergus Falls, which generates 70 percent of its power from coal-fired plants.
According to the revisor's records, Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) signed on to the bill on February 4, while Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) took up the rear on April 17. Someone must have reminded him that he'd signed on to the anti-clean energy pledge sponsored by Koch Brothers and Donors Trust front group, Americans for Prosperity.
In the state senate, Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Otter Tail Power) introduced the bill, and Branden Petersen (R-Andover) and Dave Osmek (R-Mound) signed on as co-sponsors. None are listed as ALEC members on the ALECexposed site.
The bills went nowhere, an echo of similar efforts across the country, Grist's John Upton reports in Campaign to roll back state renewable programs is a flop so far:
State laws requiring utilities to sell a certain percentage of clean energy have been attacked across the nation over the past year. But these renewable portfolio standards have been holding their own just fine.
Not only were all of the legislative efforts to roll back such standards defeated, but some states actually strengthened their laws, requiring still more clean energy to flow through the grid. From Bloomberg:
None of the 26 bills to roll back requirements passed before most state legislature sessions ended, according to a July 9 report from Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy. Eight states voted to strengthen or modify laws that require utilities to purchase electricity produced from renewable sources.
Challenges to so-called renewable portfolio standards in effect in 30 states have increased since the lobby group American Legislative Exchange Council released model legislation in October that state lawmakers are using as a blueprint to try to water down rules supporting wind and solar energy.
“There was a big push to slow down progress after ALEC got involved but the momentum is in renewable energy’s favor,” Adam Browning, executive director of the San Francisco-based Vote Solar Initiative, said … in an interview. “Poll after poll shows that Americans want clean, renewable energy and support these policies.”
Read the rest at Grist. Minnesota Republicans aren't ones to let popular sentiment stop their quest to stop clean energy. As Bluestem noted last week, Gruenhagen is going after a wind farm in his district that's already permitted because he opposes renewable energy standards.
Case study: Mary Franson and energy
In May, Representative Franson shrieked to her constituents about the new, tiny solar mandate:
If you notice an increase in your utility bills in the coming months, you can blame House Democrats! On Tuesday, the House passed a monstrosity of an omnibus energy bill that imposes a 40% renewable energy standard by 2030 for investor-owned utility companies (Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, Otter Tail Power, Alliant) including a 4% solar mandate with a 10% solar mandate goal. The legislation actually gives a special exemption carve-out to the Iron Range so legislators from that area could support it. This bill makes Al Gore’s energy ideas look moderate in comparison! Setting these kinds of arbitrary renewable energy standards will make energy more costly and less reliable and ignores the inefficient and expensive nature of the energy sources being mandated. . . .
In the end, the actual solar mandate was 1.5 percent.
Update: Representative Franson kindly contacted Bluestem to let us know that she wrote about the final mandate in her May 24 Update. She wote there:
You’ll also be paying more in electric bills with the new solar mandate that the Democrats wrapped into the “jobs” bill with the 1.5% solar standard requirement of retail electric sales with a 10% solar mandate goal by 2030. Setting arbitrary solar standard will make energy more costly and less reliable. It also ignores the inefficient and expensive nature of the energy sources being mandated.[end update]
Moreover However, the source of those higher utility bills--for Xcel customers at least--probably won't be the sun. On Monday, the Star Tribune reported in Monticello nuclear plant repairs surge $267 million over budget:
A major upgrade to Minnesota’s oldest nuclear power plant is finally finished — and way over budget.
Xcel Energy expects to restart its Monticello Nuclear Power Plant this week after a four-month shutdown that allowed workers to replace aging pumps and other equipment to keep the 43-year-old reactor running another two decades and to boost electric output by 12 percent.
But the cost of the work surged $267 million, or 83 percent, over its 2008 budget of $320 million. The Minneapolis-based electric and gas utility says the final costs will be even higher, but hasn’t publicly disclosed the amount.
In the meantime, Xcel’s 1.2 million electric customers in Minnesota are being asked to pay for the cost overruns. This sort of nuclear-related expense is one of the major drivers behind Xcel’s requested rate hike that an administrative judge recently recommended slashing to 4.7 percent. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will decide, probably this fall, how much more ratepayers will pay. . . .
Such cost overruns are further proof of the “very dicey” economics of nuclear power, said Mark Cooper, a senior research fellow for economic analysis at Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment.
“They cannot build these things or repair them or expand them without having severe cost overruns and that is part of the technology,” Cooper said in an interview.
Last year, Xcel dropped a planned power enhancement at its other Minnesota nuclear plant, Prairie Island in Red Wing, saying it no longer was an economical option. . . .
Will Franson be sharing this--along with news of the much smaller solar mandate--with her constituents? She ran on a pro-nuclear energy agenda last fall:
We have exciting renewable technology on the horizon, such as nuclear energy. As a mother of three children, I know first-hand how spiraling energy costs affect the family budget. Nuclear energy is clean and safe and would be a cost-effective energy source as long as the government stays out of the way.
Spiraling costs sure from Xcel's nuclear plant at Monticello sure will bite into families' budgets, but the problems with maintaining and upgrading the plants don't seem to stem from government action. And nuclear energy as renewable technology? Really? That's debatable, though Bluestem notes that it's low carbon. Nuclear energy has never been defined as part of the state's renewable energy standard.
Photo: Monticello nuclear power plant, where much of that rate hike is coming from.
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