On February 9, 2015, the Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to a decision by Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) approving Northern States Power Company d/b/a Xcel Energy’s (Xcel) petition to purchase wind-powered electricity from four specific companies. In re Xcel Energy, 2015 WL 506416 (Minn. Ct. App. 2015).

Windmill

Minnesota’s renewable energy objectives require Xcel to produce 25% of its electricity from wind power by 2020. Minn. Stat. § 216B.1691, subd. 2a(b) (2014). (Source: http://www.mnpower.com)

The relators—Minnesota-based wind-power companies formed to develop community-based energy-development (C–BED) projects on land owned and farmed by member-owners pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 216B.1612—submitted bids in response to Xcel’s February 2013 solicitation for additional wind power but were not ultimately selected to provide the wind power. The relator C-BED wind companies objected to Xcel’s decision on the grounds that Xcel had not made a reasonable effort to fulfill its wind-energy needs through C–BED projects. The C-BED companies also challenged MPUC’s denial of their request for a contested case proceeding.

In affirming the MPUC’s decision, the Court of Appeals concluded that the MPUC was not required to give C-BED projects preferential treatment; local ownership was just one of several enumerated factors the MPUC must consider. Other factors, such as cost of the power, weighed against the higher-priced proposals from the C-BED companies. The Court also upheld the MPUC’s denial of a contested case, concluding that the C-BED companies had shown neither “contested material facts” nor “a right to a hearing under statute or rule” as required by Minn. R. 7829.1000.

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