Legislation enacted during the 2023 session affected the Community Solar Gardens statute - Chapter 60 – H.F.No. 2310 . The information below pertains to the legacy CSG program.
Xcel Energy’s (Xcel) CSG program was mandated by the Minnesota Legislature. Under Minnesota Statute, Xcel was required to file a plan for a CSG program with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission by September 30, 2013. Other public utilities were also given the option to file a plan. Presently, no other utility has filed an application under this statute. For this reason, community solar garden programs offered by other investor-owned utilities, cooperatives, or municipal utilities may be quite different.
Xcel administers the CSG program, which the Company refers to as “Solar*Rewards Community.” The Company maintains an extensive website, link below, including but not limited to information on how the program works, how to contact a solar garden developer, customer bill credits, and information related to solar garden development. In addition, Xcel sponsors a CSG stakeholder workgroup. Solar installers and developers interested in participating in the program are advised to join and participate in this workgroup. To do so please contact: SRCMN@xcelenergy.com
Third-party solar providers play a major role in Xcel’s program. Under the statute, third-party community solar garden developers are permitted to develop and operate projects, as well as market subscriptions directly to Xcel's customers. The Commission does not regulate or have authority over these third-party garden developers apart from the contracts they are required to sign with Xcel and that are included in the utility’s tariffs. There are currently a number of different types of solar garden facilities, and garden developers participating in the program. Because business models differ across developers, so do the contracts that subscribers are asked to sign. Billing disputes between the program subscriber and the garden operator should be directed to the operator.
Minnesota law also specifies that there will be no limitation on the number of gardens or the cumulative generating capacity of CSG facilities apart from the limitations imposed under Minn. Stat., section 216B.164, subdivision 4c, or other limitations provided in law or through other regulations.
The Commission has issued numerous decisions in Docket No. E-002/M-13-867 relating to different aspects of CSGs, including decisions that clarify and modify earlier decisions. Two initial Orders approving Xcel Energy’s proposed program plan include Orders issued on April 7, 2014 and September 17, 2014. See also the August 6, 2015 Order detailing the Commission-adopted partial settlement on CSG co-location.
Currently there are two different types of bill credits that are given to customers for their portion of a CSG's energy production. Minn. Stat. § 216B.1641(d) requires Xcel to purchase all energy generated by its CSGs, either owned by Xcel or third-party. Community garden subscribers, or customers, receive a credit on their bill reflecting their portion of the purchased energy. In 2013, the Legislature amended Minn. Stat. § 216B.164 to allow a public utility to apply to the Commission for approval of an alternative tariff, instead of the applicable retail rate, to compensate customers for operating distributed solar PV resources. Minn. Stat. § 216B.164 subd. 10 tasked the Department with establishing the distributed solar value methodology for the alternative tariff. On September 6, 2016 the Commission approved tis method for Xcel’s CSGs applications filed after December 31, 2016. A new value of solar is calculated each year and is applied prospectively to all applications entering the tariff during that year, after the Commission approves the calculation.
To follow specific issues related to Xcel's CSGs as well as the Company's quarterly and annual reports see Docket No. E-002/M-13-867. General methodological issues related to valuing the production of solar energy are discussed in Docket No. E999/M-14-65.