Local Democracy Legislation – The ability to govern ourselves

During the 2017 Legislative Session, the Minnesota Legislature passed and Gov. Dayton signed a provision that reduces duplicative regulation on your electric cooperative. This local democracy legislation returns some balance to the regulatory process, ensuring decisions that impact Renville-Sibley Cooperative Power Association are made locally by your elected board of directors.

The legislation impacts the distributed generation section of the statute and brings it in line with the rest of Minnesota Statute as it applies to rates, fees, and charges of electric cooperatives. Electric cooperatives still must follow the law as laid out by the legislature in this section. The provision that the legislature passed and the governor signed allows for cooperatives to adopt the authority implementing this section of the statute (Minnesota Statute 216B. To do so, a cooperative had to pass a resolution adopting this authority and adopt rules implementing this section of the statute.

The municipal utilities in Minnesota have had similar authority in Minnesota for over 30 years. With the passage of the provision, the legislature affirmed the value of local decision making for rural electric cooperatives across Minnesota. As your locally owned cooperative, we know that local decision making can result in rates and services that reflect our community’s needs while assisting in keeping administrative costs down.

At its December 2017 meeting, the Renville-Sibley Cooperative Power Association’s board of directors adopted the local authority resolution and rules implementing the section of Minnesota Statute 216B.164 that applies to distributed generation (member owned wind and solar).  Please note these rules have been written in-line with revised State Statute 216B.164 as well as PUC rules (Chapter 7835) that we have been operating under since 1983.  The key change is that disputes relating to distributed generation will follow the dispute resolution process outlined in the rules.  The purpose of the action taken was to secure local decision-making, not to change the way the cooperative interacts with distributed generation.

Copies of the statute, draft rules and the proposed resolution were posted on our website.  In addition, meetings were held in July and August of 2017 on this topic.  Members were encouraged to contact the cooperative or attend board meetings to discuss their ideas or concerns.   All members with existing distributed generation facilities were personally invited to the meetings.  Copies of the August 2017 newsletter article on Local Democracy and all related documents were sent to members who added distributed generation facilities after the meetings were held.   Prior to taking action in December 2017, neither Renville-Sibley board members or management received feedback opposing your board taking local control over this process.