U students speak for solar bill

by Hailey Colwell

 

Environmentalists from the University of Minnesota and around the state addressed the House Energy Policy Committee Tuesday on a bill that could raise state solar standards.

The Solar Energy Jobs Act of 2013, sponsored by Rep. Will Morgan, DFL-Burnsville, would require the state to generate 10 percent of its electricity with solar technology by 2030. This mandate would accompany Minnesota’s current goal of producing 25 percent of energy from renewable methods by 2025, according to an article by the Session Daily from the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Under the bill, utility companies would have to pay a “value of solar” fee to solar energy producers. This cost would be determined by the Department of Commerce, according to the article. It would also create incentives to promote new solar generation.

Proponents of the bill say it will create jobs and boost Minnesota investments, but companies like Xcel Energy and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce criticize the price of solar power. 

“The cost of this bill is pretty large.” said Rick Evans, director of regional government affairs for Xcel, in the article. “Solar is a very expensive way to reduce carbon production,” he said, adding that wind energy is cheaper.

University senior Christy Newell, who works as a coordinator for the Minnesota Youth Environmental Network, addressed the committee about the bill’s role for younger generations.

“Young people are studying and working toward building a green economy that must include renewable energy from solar,” she said. “Our old technologies are not meeting our needs or our state’s carbon reduction goals.”

About 100 young people, including Newell and other University students, gathered at the Capitol Monday to ask legislators to support the bill.

Among the legislators the students spoke with was Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, one of the bill’s authors.

Hausman said expanding the state’s solar and other renewable energy generation can benefit the economy by increasing investments in Minnesota resources. She said it’s encouraging that the students are concerned about this.

“They know energy is the potential economic driver in their near future,” she said.

Hausman’s advice to the students was to be consistent about renewable energy lobbying.

“It won’t happen overnight,” she said, “but don’t give up.”

The bill awaits further hearings and will be voted on in the coming weeks.