The Coalition for Community Solar Access honors Minnesota legislators for advancing the state’s next iteration of the community solar gardens program
St. Paul, MN (October 3, 2023) — The Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) is marking a year of significant growth and momentum for community solar by recognizing Minnesota advocates for their work over the last year to advance and revitalize the state’s community solar gardens (CSG) program.
CCSA is awarding State Representative and House Energy Chair Patty Acomb, State House Majority Leader Jamie Long, and Speaker of the Minnesota House Melissa Hortman among its 2023 Community Solar Champions.
They are among 22 Community Solar Champions nationwide, including state legislators, environmental and sustainability advocates, labor leaders, advocates for disadvantaged communities, and farmers and agricultural groups.
Minnesota’s 2023 Community Solar Champions were instrumental in passing landmark legislation to modernize and expand the state’s seasoned but outdated CSG program.
In her capacity as House Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee, Rep. Acomb was instrumental in constructing and passing a bill to revamp Minnesota’s CSG program and bring it into alignment with leading states across the country, and continues to lead efforts to move Minnesota to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Acomb also founded the Minnesota House Climate Action Caucus.
“Representative Acomb’s collaborative process for conducting legislative negotiations created a place for innovative ideas to thrive, enabling a thoughtful and comprehensive reform to Minnesota’s already successful CSG program,” noted Kevin Cray, Senior Mountain West Regional Director for CCSA. “She’s an incredible advocate for a green and equitable energy economy in Minnesota, and we’re glad to bestow her as one of this year’s Community Solar Champions.”
Rep. Long has supported efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing reliance on coal plants and investing in solar, wind, and electric vehicles. He has also supported legislation to revamp the CSG program, help low-income residential customers participate in solar programs, programs to place solar panels on public schools, and laws to update Minnesota’s building energy codes.
“We are enormously grateful for Rep. Long’s leadership on community solar. Minnesota has tremendous renewable energy potential, and without key players like him, we would not have such a promising outlook in a state that previously led on community solar policy for years,” Cray added.
Melissa Hortman has served as Speaker of the Minnesota House since 2019. While she was the chair of the Energy Policy Committee, she was the chief author of the state’s community solar laws.
“Support among legislative leadership showed through this session in our collective efforts to democratize solar energy through a rejuvenation of the CSG program. We’re grateful that she has kept renewable energy a priority as part of her role in leadership,” Cray noted. “Speaker Hortman, as well as the other legislative champions we’ve been fortunate to work with, has taken an active role in expanding and focusing the impact the CSG program can have bringing community solar to thousands of Minnesota homes.”
Under previous law, community solar subscribers were required to subscribe to CSG facilities within their same county or an adjacent one. Issues arose when areas with high demand for subscriptions reached capacity despite consumer demand, and typically more rural counties were effectively not able to host or subscribe to projects due to limited access to enough local subscribers to enable a project. With this new law, the arbitrary restriction has been removed, creating truly equal access for all Xcel customers.
The landmark legislation ushers in long-awaited program updates that make Minnesota a great place to do business. The state was proud to host the largest community solar program in the country for many years, and these important legislative changes will help Minnesota remain a leader. This year’s community solar champions will create hundreds of megawatts of clean energy that will benefit all Minnesotans — from farmers to renters to schools to low-income communities and more. Farmers, in particular, will now have increased ability to host community solar gardens, providing them with a stable, dependable revenue stream that can help secure multi-generational farms for many more years.
Through community solar, customers can enjoy equal access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar generation by subscribing to small local solar arrays. They then receive a credit on their utility bill for their share of the power that is produced, similar to if the panels were on their own roof.
An estimated two-thirds of American households do not have access to solar power because they either rent, live in a multi-tenant building or have roofs unable to host a solar system.
There are currently 18 states plus the District of Columbia with policies in place that permit third-party, competitive community solar with multiple states advancing legislation to enable new programs.
About the Coalition for Community Solar Access
The Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) is a national trade association representing over 120 community solar developers, businesses, and nonprofits. Together, we are building the electric grid of the future where every customer has the freedom to support the generation of clean, local solar energy to power their lives. Through legislative and regulatory advocacy, and the support of a diverse coalition — including advocates for competition, clean energy, ratepayers, landowners, farmers, and environmental justice — we enable policies that unlock the potential of distributed energy resources, starting with community solar. For more information, visit https://www.communitysolaraccess.org and follow the group on Twitter (X), LinkedIn, and YouTube.