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The Commission is gathering information about the fees assessed on “Qualifying Facilities” (customers who produce their own energy, usually by putting solar panels or wind turbines at their residence or place of business).  If you are being assessed a fee by your utility because you produce some or all of your own energy, we would like to hear from you on the 3 Topics below:

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View Case Record, CI-15-755

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Catherine Tucker over 6 years ago

My utility is the Steele Waseca Co-op. The cost of electricity is very expensive since it is a smaller utility. I priced the payback on a solar generating system that I needed and discovered that if I went over 3.5kwh that I would be charged the maximum fee allowed, up to $48 per month, which prices me out of using solar power. Staying at the 3.5kwh does not provide enough energy for my small homestead. I called them to ask why they are charging this fee, when I am the one paying for the infrastructure that helps the utility generate energy. They tried to tell me that it was to cover the cost of new lines to my place. I am a cost accountant, and their explanations were full of hot air, especially since the lines have been running to my place for over 75 years and there would be no additional outlay to the co-op for my installing solar. When I pointed out the holes in the arguments to several different employees, I was finally told the state law changed that will allow them to collect the fees, so they will cash in on it. They did offer me the chance to help them pay for their own solar panels that would "benefit everyone in the co-op". I was also informed that if I decided to put in a 10kwh or larger system, more than I need, that I would not have to pay the fee because I would be a large producer. It seems that this fee structure is designed to hit the residential consumer, which is exactly where the market should be expanding to take the pressure off of the utilities and reduce our need for foreign energy. The federal government has extended the credits for solar for another five years to try to encourage their growth and the State of Minnesota slaps it down by allowing these high fees. That seems rather counterproductive. If I did not have to pay the fees, I would expand my system to 6 kwh which would cover all of my needs. I would still be paying the monthly hook up fee to the co-op, so they would not be out any money, plus I have footed the bill personally for the infrastructure. I am in a farm community where the needs for energy tend to run highest in late fall, and my homestead needs are less, so I am supplying them with my excess energy. They cannot lose in that scenario. The state will lose however, if these fees continue.

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James Jorgensen over 6 years ago

I have both small wind and a small solar project that produces power for my farm. I have had discussions with my coop through both projects being commissioned in the past few years and no monthly fee was ever brought up. My systems were commissioned and grandfathered in since it was prior to my local electric coop mandating a fee with the help of our state legislature slipping a provision for these fees or tax to support a special interest with no research or investigation of the facts. I am so thankful that the PUC is over seeing this issue as our state legislature struggles to do the right thing in a timely manner. As far as the coops mandating these monthly fees for infrastructure would it not be more cost effective to allow their members to invest their own money to produce green energy and reduce the excessive demand charges that electric providers have needed to impose on their members? Many coops have invested in solar projects themselves and offer their members to invest in them at an inflated rate over current market price. Sometimes it is more cost effective to allow someone else to provide it. I believe that the members that are willing to do the work and use their money to become more energy efficient should not be taxed of penalized for it. I recently asked to increase my service size and the coop said they would but I had to pay $48,000 to do so. My question is WHO is paying for the infrastructure? Yet one of my neighbors asked to have their power updated and by leveraging his coop with another utility which was an real option for him, the end cost by his providing coop went down by approximately 90% for the increased service size once their was another option to the member. My personal opinion is that transparency is the best policy and for that to happen these fees and taxes by the coop's need to be stopped and justified through an honest accounting. It is becoming hard to understand your electric bill. The bills keep changing and they should be clear and understood by its members. Too much consolidation has created monopolies which has given businesses less options and more costs to be less competitive in the world market. Monopolies are not taxing authorities. What is so wrong with your personal home or business hedging against higher energy rates of the future, the more energy we consume the more inventive we need to become to supply power with options that are better for the enviornment and keep up with new cost effective technologies. The federal programs in place encourage us to be more energy efficient. Change happens everyday, but it is never easy or without resistance. I believe it is time to take a clear transparent look how we generated and use electricity and the costs assigned to renewable and new energies.

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Theresa Mueller over 6 years ago

I just inquired into solar energy options related to a personal residential building project. I was told the solar option would require an ongoing $48 a month. Is this correct ? I thought we need to encourage more sustainable and efficient forms of energy? I want to build a new home. I want to select responsible sustainable options. Why am I punished for this?

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