This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s New Rules Project.

Chart.Currently, Minnesota’s public schools spend approximately $84 million per year on electricity costs, money diverted from the classroom. But a bill to make clean, local energy accessible now (CLEAN) could help the state’s public schools use solar to zero out their electricity bills and add $193 million per year to their operating budgets.

The proposed bill would create a CLEAN Contract for public entities in Minnesota, requiring local utilities to buy electricity from solar photovoltaics (PV) systems on public property on a long-term contract and at a price sufficient to offer a small return on investment. The program mimics the traditional model for utility power development, where the public utilities commission rewards utilities a fixed rate of return on investments in new power generation. If schools maximize their participation in the new program, and cover their available roofspace with solar PV, the 750 megawatts of power would provide $193 million per year for school budgets, create hundreds of local jobs, and make the schools electricity self-reliant. 

The cost of the program would be negligible: adding less than two-tenths of a cent per kilowatt-hour to customer bills. 

Minnesota’s CLEAN Contract proposal is one of several programs spreading across North America, from Ontario to Vermont to Gainesville, Fla., and one that has ushered in thousands of megawatts of solar across Europe. In Ontario, the full-scale program has contracted over 2,700 megawatts of renewable energy and is responsible for 43,000 new jobs. Minnesota’s program is restricted to solar PV on public property, but as this analysis shows, it could still have a significant impact on school budgets without a significant impact on ratepayers.

For more detail on CLEAN Contracts, read our 2009 report. For more on CLEAN Contracts in Minnesota, check out Solar Works for Minnesota.