Projects & Rates
Utility rate cases and projects, including routing and siting and certificates of need.
Energy Environmental Review and Analysis
The Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) unit conducts environmental review of large energy projects for which the Department of Commerce is the responsible governmental unit.
These projects include:
- Large electric power generating plants equal to or greater than 50 megawatts (including solar generation facilities)
- Wind farms greater equal to or greater than 5 megawatts
- High-voltage transmission lines greater than 100 kilovolts
- Large oil and natural gas pipelines
The type of environmental review document prepared by EERA varies with facility type and size, but all environmental review documents analyze the potential human and environmental impacts of a proposed project and possible mitigation measures. This is the only environmental review required for siting or routing large energy projects. You can find, track, and comment on large energy projects on the EERA website.
- EERA provides technical expertise and assistance to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (Commission) including analysis of the relative merits of siting and routing options, identification of permit conditions to mitigate potential impacts, and review of permit compliance filings. The Commission is responsible for approving or denying permit applications for the projects listed above.
- EERA identifies and undertakes research on the environmental impacts of energy facilities; creates guidance materials and protocols to ensure adequate and consistent analysis; and produces and distributes public information materials.
- EERA staff also serves as Commerce’s representative to the Minnesota Environmen
Certificates of Need
Any large energy facility (e.g., electric generation plant, pipeline, transmission line) proposed to be built in Minnesota must obtain a Certificate of Need from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission before construction begins. The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Regulation and Planning (ERP) unit analyzes whether certificate-of-need proposals show a need for the facility, show that the proposal is least-cost and meet other criteria for need set out in statutes and rules. The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Facility Permitting (EFP) unit conducts the environmental review required for proposed energy facilities in Minnesota. This unit serves as technical staff to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in its permitting of energy facilities. These facilities include power plants, transmission lines, wind farms, and pipelines.
The PUC determines the basic types of facility (if any) to be constructed, the size of the facility, and the time of the facility (e.g. when projected to be in service).
All large energy facilities must obtain a Certificate of Need from the PUC before construction. A large electric facility is classified as:
- Any electric power generating plant or combination of plants at a single site with a combined capacity of 50,000 kilowatts or more and transmission lines directly associated with the plant that are necessary to interconnect the plant to the transmission system; and
- Any high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more and greater than 1,500 feet in length; (Minn. Stat. § 216B.2421, subd. 2)
In the eDocket system: under “Docket Type” select “Certificate of Need” for all documents filed in all Certificate of Need proceedings. For tips on how to find these documents in the system, view the help files.
More information is available in the PUC's Certificate of Need fact sheet.
Automatic adjustments, which are either fuel clause adjustments (FCA) for electric utilities or purchased gas adjustments (PGA) for natural gas utilities, allow utilities to change rates between rate cases as the cost of fuel or natural gas fluctuates. This is different from rate cases where rates are set and do not change until the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission decides a subsequent rate case. Typically, these rates change monthly. The Division of Energy Resources reviews FCA/PGA filings to ensure that the costs are reasonable, involve only those costs that are allowed to be passed through, and that the utility’s system for accounting for these costs is appropriate.
In the eDocket system: under “Docket Type” select “Auto Fuel Adj” to obtain all adjustments to electric rates and natural gas rates.
General Rate Cases
A rate case is a proceeding where there is a “snap-shot in time” of all aspects involved in a utility providing service to its retail customers to include:
- Financial elements (including balance sheet, income statement, and specific adjustments for any such item)
- Cost of capital, sales forecasts, rate design (which involves allocating costs to various customer classes setting rates for each class, and reviewing any changes in services)
- Conservation cost recovery and other factors
The Division of Energy Resources analyzes each aspect of the utility’s proposals in rate cases to ensure that the utility’s ratepayers pay reasonable rates (as required by law) and that the utility has a reasonable opportunity to recover its costs.
The goal of setting rates through a rate case is that, between rate cases, the utility should have sufficient incentive to minimize costs to increase its profits. Such cost minimization should then be reflected in the subsequent rate case. However, there is always a need to ensure that utilities include only just and reasonable costs in the rate case in the first place.
In the eDocket system: under “Docket Type” select “General Rate Case” to obtain all documents filed in general rate cases. Since numerous documents are filed in general rate cases, it is helpful to use the search results to find the docket number for the rate case(s) of most interest and refine the next search. For example, if a docket number of interest is 11-1234, then select 11 from the drop-down menu for the year and type in 1234 for the number.
Integrated Resource Plans
The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is one of the most important planning tools and road maps for each electric utility. In general, the goal of an IRP is to set out a reasonable plan to ensure that a utility can meet its customers’ needs in a reliable and low-cost manner. The word “integrated” refers to the goal of ensuring that the utility uses both generation and demand-response resources. The Division of Energy Resources ensures that the utility has a reasonable (e.g., low-cost and in compliance with statutes) plan to meet its customers’ needs. Further, based on the division’s analysis, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission determines in an IRP whether or not a utility has made a “good-faith effort” to meet Minnesota’s renewable energy standard (RES).
In the eDocket system: under “Docket Type” select “Resource Planning” to obtain documents in integrated resource plans.
Utilities propose many other changes to their rates or service; the Division of Energy Resources analyzes the proposals and makes recommendations to the Commission. The following is a partial list, including the “Docket type” in eDockets:
Examples of Rate and Service Changes Proposed:
||Docket Type in eDockets
|Competitive or discretionary rates
|Purchased power agreements
|Service area changes
|Sale or acquisition of utility property
Utilities are required to submit certain annual or periodic reports, including annual jurisdictional reports. These filings do not require specific action but are available as general information. Some reports are required by statute or rule (e.g., Annual Electric Utility Report, Cold Weather Rule Report, Annual Affiliated Interest Report) and some by Commission Order.
To view these documents in the eDocket system: under “Docket Type” select “Periodic Reports”.