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Energy proposals would hurt electricity consumers

The Minnesota Legislature is considering several proposals that would negatively impact the members of Agralite Electric Cooperative and consumers of electricity throughout the state.

Although we understand the governor’s and Legislature’s desire to increase the amount of renewable energy used in Minnesota, on behalf of our 3,600 members, we must remind them that the state’s electric cooperatives are struggling with the cost of meeting the current renewable energy standard (RES), which was signed into law in 2007 and remains one of the nation’s most aggressive mandates. Any expansion of the RES would require electric cooperatives to add un-economic power generation we do not need at a time when our members can least afford it.

When it passed out of the House Energy Policy Committee, House File 956, the Omnibus Energy Bill, would require utilities to purchase 4 percent of their electricity from solar energy and establish a goal of up to 10 percent from solar energy. This amount would be on top of the 25 percent renewable energy utilities are already required to provide. The bill also includes a 1.33 percent annual tax on all utility sales to fund solar energy subsidies. For members of Agralite Electric Cooperative, this would represent more than $250,000 per year for solar subsidies. And who would receive these subsidies? I am guessing many of these dollars would end up subsidizing solar installations on big box chain stores or on multimillion dollar homes on Gull Lake or Lake Minnetonka and very few dollars coming back to west central Minnesota.

Solar energy is more expensive than other types of electricity generation, and these two proposals could cost Minnesota utilities and ratepayers as much as $10 billion in capital costs and significantly raise monthly electric bills. We do not believe this is the best use of our members’ energy dollars.

Although supporters of these efforts to expand solar energy claim the mandates could create thousands of new jobs, they do not seem to consider the very real job losses we would face, particularly in Greater Minnesota, when electricity costs skyrocket.

Please join us in contacting your legislative representatives and ask them to oppose these costly proposals. Ask them to support their local electric cooperative so we can continue to provide safe, reliable electric service. Although we support the continued development of cost competitive renewable energy resources, we oppose additional energy mandates or expansion of the state’s renewable energy standard.

Korwin Johnson

General Manager, Agralite Electric Cooperative