Senate Passes Natural Gas Innovation Act to Increase Renewable Energy Resources

On Thursday, Senator Bill Weber’s (R-Luverne) Natural Gas Innovation Act passed with bipartisan support, 53-14, off the Senate floor. The legislation, S.F. 421, establishes a regulatory framework enabling Minnesota’s natural gas utilities to provide customers with access to renewable energy resources and innovative technologies while reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“With a current goal of 25% renewable energy, almost half of Minnesota’s electricity is already coming from renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectricity,” Weber said. “Adding renewable natural gas to that catalog will allow Minnesota to continue to lead on energy innovation and give our state the critical flexibility it needs to meet Minnesota’s home and business energy demands on even the coldest days of the year.”

This creates a new framework for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to evaluate investments in innovative projects to help decarbonize the natural gas system while maintaining an all-of-the-above energy strategy to keep energy affordable for Minnesotans. It will promote local economic opportunities and job creation with the development of new made-in-Minnesota clean energy resources. The reform also diversifies Minnesota’s energy sources, improves waste management, and supports rural economic development.

Renewable gas is already being produced by recycling biogas from organic materials such as agricultural manure, wastewater, and commercial food waste. Energy companies have also been using renewable electricity to split water to create carbon-free hydrogen for blending with natural gas. Lastly, firms have been developing end-use carbon capture technology that can be used in natural gas space or water heating equipment to convert CO2 emissions into a powder that can be recycled into commercial products.

This change clarifies the legislative intent that natural gas utilities can help the state meet existing renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals while authorizing the PUC to review a natural gas utility’s innovation plan.  The policy also sets a maximum allowable cost to limit the impact on ratepayers.