Rep. says energy bill could hurt businesses, schools

MARSHALL – District 16A House Rep. Chris Swedzinski said Tuesday that the energy bill being crafted in the Minnesota House and Senate has the potential to double energy rates to businesses and schools and said opponents of the bill will fight to take it down.

Minnesota House and Senate negotiators agreed Tuesday to an energy bill that includes a mandate that investor-owned utilities get 1.5 percent of the energy from solar generation. The two chambers’ bills originally differed in how much power should be generated through solar generation by 2025. The House version had required investor-owned utilities to provide at least 4 percent of their power through solar generation, while the Senate version was a 1 percent standard.

Still, Swedzinski said entities all over the state could very well be paying a heavy price in the future if the bill passes.

He said even those who get energy from wind turbines could be affected through a possible change in net metering.

“We’ve got skyrocketing energy rates already; the last 10 years a lot of businesses and school districts have already seen their electricity rates double,” said Swedzinski, R-Ghent. “It’s been estimated that potentially this bill could double it once more. That’s a huge, huge issue under this mandate.”

And although electricity co-ops and municipal utilities like Marshall Municipal Utilities would be considered exempt under the bill, they could end up paying more on the back side if higher costs are already built in.

“It’s a small victory with municipals and co-ops, but depending on where they get their electricity from, this wouldn’t lessen the cost of energy, it would increase it,” he said.

Swedzinski said if electricity rates do double, it could lead to businesses and schools being forced to cut back on employees.

“This is an absolute slippery slope,” he said. “In schools, say they’re spending $7,500 a month on electricity and that doubles. So you multiply that by 12, that’s a full-time position. It’s one of those unseen costs of doing business.”

DFL legislators who authored the bill have said many already face rate hikes because utilities currently rely too heavily on fossil fuels and nuclear power.

The compromise now goes back to the House and Senate for final votes.