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Reader Opinion: Keep clean energy initiatives

I am very concerned about the effect that many provisions in both the House and Senate Energy Omnibus Bills will have on our community's ability to increase the energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in our homes and buildings. For example, the House bill exempts small utilities from the state's Conservation Improvement Program. The effect is that over 62,000 rural customers statewide will no longer have the same opportunities to cut energy waste and save money on their utility bills as those living in urban areas.

The Senate bill exempts rural electrical cooperatives from the requirement to have the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission resolve net metering disputes. Net metering allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from renewable sources to feed extra electricity back into the grid. Cooperative customers are currently challenging fees as high as $83 per month, and this bill would remove their ability to have those fees waived by independent experts. The result is that families, businesses, and farmers in our area who have invested in renewable energy will no longer have the same consumer protections as those served by larger utilities.

Both of these bills represent a step backward in Minnesota's transition to a clean energy economy, especially in outstate communities. I urge our local legislators to make sure that the bill placed before the governor maintains energy efficiency incentives and consumer protections for rural residents, instead of removing them.

Kay Paulus