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Minnesota Legislature

Office of the Revisor of Statutes

Key: (1) language to be deleted (2) new language

  

                         Laws of Minnesota 1989 

                        CHAPTER 338-H.F.No. 1532 
           An act relating to utilities; low-income energy needs; 
          designating the department of public service as the 
          agency responsible for coordinating energy policy for 
          low-income Minnesotans; requiring the department to 
          gather certain information on low-income energy 
          programs; appropriating money; amending Minnesota 
          Statutes 1988, sections 216B.241, subdivisions 1 and 
          2; 216C.02, subdivision 1; 216C.10; 216C.11; and 
          268.37, by adding a subdivision; proposing coding for 
          new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 216B. 
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA: 
     Section 1.  [216B.095] [DISCONNECTION DURING COLD WEATHER.] 
    The commission shall amend its rules governing 
disconnection of residential utility customers who are unable to 
pay for utility service during cold weather to include the 
following: 
    (1) coverage of customers whose household income is less 
than 185 percent of the federal poverty level; 
    (2) a requirement that a customer who pays the utility at 
least ten percent of the customer's income or the full amount of 
the utility bill, whichever is less, in a cold weather month 
cannot be disconnected during that month; 
    (3) that the ten percent figure in clause (2) must be 
prorated between energy providers proportionate to each 
provider's share of the customer's total heating energy costs 
where the customer receives service from more than one provider; 
    (4) that a customer's household income does not include any 
amount received for energy assistance; 
    (5) verification of income by the local energy assistance 
provider, unless the customer is automatically eligible as a 
recipient of any form of public assistance, including energy 
assistance, that uses income eligibility in an amount at or 
below the income eligibility in clause (1); and 
    (6) a requirement that the customer receive, from the local 
energy assistance provider or other entity, budget counseling 
and referral to weatherization, conservation, or other programs 
likely to reduce the customer's consumption of energy. 
     For the purpose of clause (2), the "customer's income" 
means the actual monthly income of the customer except for a 
customer who is normally employed only on a seasonal basis and 
whose annual income is over 135 percent of the federal poverty 
level, in which case the customer's income is the average 
monthly income of the customer computed on an annual calendar 
year basis. 
    Sec. 2.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 216B.241, 
subdivision 1, is amended to read: 
    Subdivision 1.  [DEFINITIONS.] For purposes of this 
section, the terms defined in this subdivision shall have the 
meanings given them:  
    (a) "Commission" means the public utilities commission, 
department of public service; 
    (b) "Department" means the department of public service; 
    (c) "Energy conservation improvement" means the purchase or 
installation of any device, method or material that increases 
the efficiency in the use of electricity or natural gas 
including, but not limited to:  
    (1) insulation and ventilation; 
    (2) storm or thermal doors or windows; 
    (3) caulking and weatherstripping; 
    (4) furnace efficiency modifications; 
    (5) thermostat or lighting controls; 
    (6) awnings; or 
    (7) systems to turn off or vary the delivery of energy.  
The term "energy conservation improvement"  includes any device 
or method which creates, converts or actively uses energy from 
renewable sources such as solar, wind and biomass providing such 
device or method conforms with national or state performance and 
quality standards whenever applicable.  
    (c) (d) "Investments and expenses of a public utility" 
includes the investments and expenses incurred by a public 
utility in connection with an energy conservation improvement 
including, but not limited to:  
    (1) the differential in interest cost between the market 
rate and the rate charged on a no interest or below market 
interest loan made by a public utility to a customer for the 
purchase or installation of an energy conservation improvement; 
    (2) the difference between the utility's cost of purchase 
or installation of energy conservation improvements and any 
price charged by a public utility to a customer for such 
improvements.  
    (d) (e) "Public utility" has the same meaning as given that 
term in section 216B.02, subdivision 4.  For the purposes of 
this section, "public utility" shall not include cooperative 
electric associations that become subject to rate regulation 
after April 16, 1980. 
    Sec. 3.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 216B.241, 
subdivision 2, is amended to read: 
    Subd. 2.  [PROGRAMS.] The commission department may 
order by rule require public utilities to make investments and 
expenditures in energy conservation improvements, explicitly 
setting forth the interest rates, prices, and terms under which 
the improvements shall must be offered to the customers.  The 
required programs must cover a two-year period.  The commission 
department shall order require at least one public utility to 
establish a pilot program to make investments in and 
expenditures for energy from renewable resources such as solar, 
wind, or biomass.  The commission department shall evaluate the 
program on the basis of cost-effectiveness and the reliability 
of technologies employed.  The order rules of the commission 
shall department must provide to the extent practicable for a 
free choice, by consumers participating in the program, of the 
device, method, or material constituting the energy conservation 
improvement and for a free choice of the seller, installer, or 
contractor of the energy conservation improvement, provided that 
the device, method, material, seller, installer, or contractor 
is duly licensed, certified, approved, or qualified, including 
under the residential conservation services program, where 
applicable.  The commission department may order require a 
utility to make an energy conservation improvement investment or 
expenditure whenever the commission department finds that the 
improvement will result in energy savings at a total cost to the 
utility less than the cost to the utility to produce or purchase 
an equivalent amount of new supply of energy.  The commission 
department shall nevertheless insure that every public 
utility with operating revenues in excess of $50,000,000 operate 
one or more programs, under periodic review by the commission 
department, which that make significant investments in and 
expenditures for energy conservation improvements.  The 
department shall consider and may require a utility to undertake 
a program suggested by an outside source, including a political 
subdivision or a nonprofit or community organization.  The 
commission department shall give special consideration to ensure 
that at least half the money spent on residential programs is 
devoted to programs that directly address the needs of renters 
and low income families and individuals unless an insufficient 
number of appropriate programs are available.  Provisions of the 
previous sentences shall expire on January 1, 1993.  For 
purposes of this section, "low income" means an income less than 
185 percent of the federal poverty level.  Investments and 
expenditures made pursuant to an order shall under this 
subdivision must be treated for ratemaking purposes in the 
manner prescribed in section 216B.16, subdivision 6b.  No 
utility shall make an energy conservation improvement pursuant 
to this section to a building envelope unless it is the primary 
supplier of energy used for either space heating or cooling in 
the building or unless the department determines that special 
circumstances, which would unduly restrict the availability of 
conservation programs, warrant otherwise.  A utility, a 
political subdivision, or a nonprofit or community organization 
that has suggested a program, or the attorney general acting on 
behalf of consumers and small business interests, may petition 
the commission to modify or revoke a department decision to 
require a program under this subdivision, and the commission may 
do so if it determines that the program is ineffective, does not 
adequately address the needs of renters and low-income families 
and individuals, or is otherwise not in the public interest.  
The person petitioning for commission review has the burden of 
proof.  The commission shall reject a petition that, on its 
face, fails to make a reasonable argument that a program is not 
in the public interest. 
    The commission shall allow a utility to recover expenses 
resulting from a conservation improvement program required by 
the department. 
    Sec. 4.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 216C.02, 
subdivision 1, is amended to read: 
    Subdivision 1.  [POWERS.] (a) The commissioner may: 
    (1) apply for, receive, and spend money received from 
federal, municipal, county, regional, and other government 
agencies and private sources; 
    (2) apply for, accept, and disburse grants and other aids 
from public and private sources; 
    (3) contract for professional services if work or services 
required or authorized to be carried out by the commissioner 
cannot be satisfactorily performed by employees of the 
department or by another state agency; 
    (4) enter into interstate compacts to carry out research 
and planning jointly with other states or the federal government 
when appropriate; 
    (5) upon reasonable request, distribute informational 
material at no cost to the public; and 
    (6) enter into contracts for the performance of the 
commissioner's duties with federal, state, regional, 
metropolitan, local, and other agencies or units of government 
and educational institutions, including the University of 
Minnesota, without regard to the competitive bidding 
requirements of chapters 16A and 16B.  
    (b) The commissioner shall collect information on 
conservation and other energy-related programs carried on by 
other agencies, by public utilities, by cooperative electric 
associations, by municipal power agencies, by other fuel 
suppliers, by political subdivisions, and by private 
organizations.  Other agencies, cooperative electric 
associations, municipal power agencies, and political 
subdivisions shall cooperate with the commissioner by providing 
information requested by the commissioner.  The commissioner may 
by rule require the submission of information by other program 
operators.  The commissioner shall make the information 
available to other agencies and to the public and, as necessary, 
shall recommend to the legislature changes in the laws governing 
conservation and other energy-related programs to ensure that: 
    (1) expenditures on the programs are adequate to meet 
identified needs; 
    (2) the needs of low-income energy users are being 
adequately addressed; 
    (3) duplication of effort is avoided or eliminated; 
    (4) a program that is ineffective is improved or 
eliminated; and 
    (5) voluntary efforts are encouraged through incentives for 
their operators.  
    The commissioner shall appoint an advisory task force to 
help evaluate the information collected and formulate 
recommendations to the legislature.  The task force must include 
low-income energy users as defined in section 216B.241, 
subdivision 2. 
    (c) By January 15 of each year, the commissioner shall 
report to the legislature on the projected amount of federal 
money likely to be available to the state during the next fiscal 
year, including grant money and money received by the state as a 
result of litigation or settlements of alleged violations of 
federal petroleum pricing regulations.  The report must also 
estimate the amount of money projected as needed during the next 
fiscal year to finance a level of conservation and other 
energy-related programs adequate to meet projected needs, 
particularly the needs of low-income persons and households, and 
must recommend the amount of state appropriations needed to 
cover the difference between the projected availability of 
federal money and the projected needs. 
    Sec. 5.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 216C.10, is 
amended to read: 
    216C.10 [POWERS.] 
    The commissioner may: 
    (a) (1) adopt rules pursuant to under chapter 14 as 
necessary to carry out the purposes of sections 216C.05 to 
216C.30 and, when necessary for the purposes of section 216C.15, 
adopt emergency rules pursuant to under sections 14.29 to 14.36; 
    (b) (2) make all contracts pursuant to under sections 
216C.05 to 216C.30 and do all things necessary to cooperate with 
the United States government, and to qualify for, accept, and 
disburse any grant intended for the administration of sections 
216C.05 to 216C.30.  Notwithstanding any other law the 
commissioner is designated the state agent to apply for, receive 
and accept federal or other funds made available to the state 
for the purposes of sections 216C.05 to 216C.30; 
    (c) (3) provide on-site technical assistance to units of 
local government in order to enhance local capabilities for 
dealing with energy problems; 
    (d) (4) administer for the state, energy programs pursuant 
to under federal law, regulations, or guidelines, except for the 
crisis fuel low-income home energy assistance program and low 
income low-income weatherization programs administered by the 
department of jobs and training, and coordinate the programs and 
activities with other state agencies, units of local government, 
and educational institutions; 
    (e) design and administer a statewide program for the 
energy and economic development authority and actively involve 
major organizations and community leaders in its work and shall 
solicit funds from all sources; 
    (f) (5) develop a state energy investment plan with yearly 
energy conservation and alternative energy development goals, 
investment targets, and marketing strategies; 
    (g) (6) perform market analysis studies relating to 
conservation, alternative and renewable energy resources, and 
energy recovery; 
    (h) (7) assist with the preparation of proposals for 
innovative conservation, renewable, alternative, or energy 
recovery projects; 
    (i) (8) manage and disburse funds made available for the 
purpose of research studies or demonstration projects related to 
energy conservation or other activities deemed appropriate by 
the commissioner; 
    (j) (9) intervene in certificate of need proceedings before 
the public utilities commission; and 
    (k) (10) collect fees from recipients of loans, grants, or 
other financial aid from money received from litigation or 
settlement of alleged violations of federal petroleum pricing 
regulations, which fees shall must be used to pay the 
department's costs in administering those financial aids; and 
    (11) collect fees from proposers and operators of 
conservation and other energy-related programs that are 
reviewed, evaluated, or approved by the department, other than 
proposers that are political subdivisions or community or 
nonprofit organizations, to cover the department's cost in 
making the reviewal, evaluation, or approval and in developing 
additional programs for others to operate. 
    Notwithstanding any other law, the commissioner is 
designated the state agent to apply for, receive, and accept 
federal or other funds made available to the state for the 
purposes of sections 216C.05 to 216C.30. 
    Sec. 6.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 216C.11, is 
amended to read: 
     216C.11 [ENERGY CONSERVATION INFORMATION CENTER.] 
    The commissioner shall establish an energy information 
center in the department's offices in St. Paul.  The information 
center shall maintain a toll-free telephone information service 
and disseminate printed materials on energy conservation topics, 
including but not limited to, availability of loans and other 
public and private financing methods for energy conservation 
physical improvements, the techniques and materials used to 
conserve energy in buildings, including retrofitting or 
upgrading insulation and installing weatherstripping, the 
projected prices and availability of different sources of 
energy, and alternative sources of energy. 
    The energy information center shall serve as the official 
Minnesota alcohol fuels information center and shall disseminate 
information, printed, by the toll-free telephone information 
service, or otherwise on the applicability and technology of 
alcohol fuels. 
    The information center shall include information on the 
potential hazards of energy conservation techniques and 
improvements in the printed materials disseminated.  The 
commissioner shall not be liable for damages arising from the 
installation or operation of equipment or materials recommended 
by the information center. 
    The information center shall use the information collected 
under section 216C.02, subdivision 1, to maintain a central 
source of information on conservation and other energy-related 
programs, including both programs required by law or rule and 
programs developed and carried on voluntarily.  In particular, 
the information center shall compile and maintain information on 
policies covering disconnections or denials of fuel during cold 
weather adopted by public utilities and other fuel suppliers not 
governed by Minnesota Rules, parts 7820.1500 to 7820.2300, 
including the number of households disconnected or denied fuel 
and the duration of the disconnections or denials. 
    Sec. 7.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 268.37, is 
amended by adding a subdivision to read: 
    Subd. 2a.  [BENEFITS OF WEATHERIZATION.] In the case of any 
grant made to an owner of a rental dwelling unit for 
weatherization, the commissioner shall require that (1) the 
benefits of weatherization assistance in connection with the 
dwelling unit accrue primarily to the low income family that 
resides in the unit; (2) the rents on the dwelling unit will not 
be raised because of any increase in value due solely to the 
weatherization assistance; and (3) no undue or excessive 
enhancement will occur to the value of the dwelling unit. 
    Sec. 8.  [STUDY, CONSERVATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMS; 
GRANTS.] 
    The department of public service shall study the 
feasibility of requiring heating fuel suppliers, including fuel 
oil distributors and retailers and propane dealers, to undertake 
conservation improvement programs.  In addition, the department 
shall study the feasibility of basing grants to low-income 
energy users on their total energy costs.  The department shall 
report its findings and recommendations to the legislature by 
January 15, 1990.  
    Sec. 9.  [CONSERVATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMS.] 
    Notwithstanding section 216B.241, subdivision 2, the 
department of public service may permit utilities governed by 
that section to carry on programs currently approved by the 
public utilities commission and the commission may continue to 
approve programs until the department has adopted rules and 
approved new programs to cover a two-year program beginning in 
1990. 
    Sec. 10.  [APPROPRIATION.] 
    $22,000 is appropriated from the general fund to the 
commissioner of public service for the purposes of rulemaking. 
    Sec. 11.  [OIL OVERCHARGE MONEY; APPROPRIATION.] 
    Subdivision 1.  [LIMITATION.] The money appropriated by 
this section is money received by the state, or to be made 
available to the state in the future, as a result of litigation 
or settlements of alleged violations of federal petroleum 
pricing regulations that is not otherwise appropriated by law or 
dedicated by court order. 
    Subd. 2.  [ENERGY RELATED PROJECTS.] $3,100,000 of the 
money specified in subdivision 1 is appropriated for transfer to 
the housing development fund for home energy loans.  Of that 
amount, $2,200,000 must be made available as soon as federal 
approval is received.  The balance must be made available from 
money received later in the fiscal years ending June 30, 1990, 
and June 30, 1991. 
    Subd. 3.  [OTHER PROJECTS.] One-half of the remainder of 
the money specified in subdivision 1 must be appropriated to the 
commissioner of jobs and training for energy conservation 
projects that directly serve low-income Minnesotans.  Money 
appropriated under subdivision 2 and under this subdivision is 
not governed by Minnesota Statutes, section 4.071, and is 
available until spent. 
    Sec. 12.  [EFFECTIVE DATE.] 
    This act is effective July 1, 1989, except that sections 1, 
9, and 11 are effective the day following final enactment. 
    Presented to the governor May 30, 1989 
    Signed by the governor June 2, 1989, 12:15 p.m.