Low Income Solar Program Expanded

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On November 5, 2020, MNIPL testified directly in front of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), advocating for changes to Minnesota Power’s proposed solar rebate program (SolarSense) and an accompanying Low Income Solar grant program. MNIPL has been an official intervenor in various Minnesota Power solar proposals over the past 5 years. Our volunteers, staff, and organizational partners have continually advocated for more resources for locally owned renewable projects that also assist those most vulnerable in our communities in Northern Minnesota.

In the testimony and public comments at the PUC meeting, MNIPL and its partners, Honor the Earth and Solar United Neighbors, sought to increase the value of the proposal to ratepayers. We wanted to add funding to and keep a community vetting component within the Low Income Solar Program.

While Minnesota Power had already agreed to our stance prior to the hearing, the PUC commissioners took our requests a step further. They adjusted the proposed budget to increase support for the Low Income Solar Grant program by shifting funds that had been allocated as program or marketing costs by the utility.

As a result, the Low Income Solar program will now distribute $120,000 annually in northeast Minnesota for four years—a 100% increase in the original proposed budget. A minimum of 4 projects will be funded per year. The program will also continue to be advised by a committee partially composed of community members who work with or come from low income populations. This will ensure that grants actually assist low income populations they are supposed to assist.

MNIPL is excited to see solar continue to be supported in Northern Minnesota. Renewable energy is more cost efficient for utility ratepayers and now more available and affordable to those who most need its benefits.