For the purpose of this section, "decoupling" means a regulatory tool designed to separate a utility's revenue from changes in energy sales. The purpose of decoupling is to reduce a utility's disincentive to promote energy efficiency.
The commission shall, by order, establish criteria and standards for decoupling. The commission may establish these criteria and standards in a separate proceeding or in a general rate case or other proceeding in which it approves a pilot program, and shall design the criteria and standards to mitigate the impact on public utilities of the energy-savings goals under section 216B.241 without adversely affecting utility ratepayers. In designing the criteria, the commission shall consider energy efficiency, weather, and cost of capital, among other factors.
The commission shall allow one or more rate-regulated utilities to participate in a pilot program to assess the merits of a rate-decoupling strategy to promote energy efficiency and conservation. Each pilot program must utilize the criteria and standards established in subdivision 2 and be designed to determine whether a rate-decoupling strategy achieves energy savings. On or before a date established by the commission, the commission shall require electric and gas utilities that intend to implement a decoupling program to file a decoupling pilot plan, which shall be approved or approved as modified by the commission. A pilot program may not exceed three years in length. Any extension beyond three years can only be approved in a general rate case, unless that decoupling program was previously approved as part of a general rate case. The commission shall report on the programs annually to the chairs of the house of representatives and senate committees with primary jurisdiction over energy policy.