Happy Energy Awareness Month!
CUB is pleased to announce that Governor Walz has declared October Energy Awareness Month in Minnesota. Celebrating has become a CUB tradition.
Last year we encouraged people to think about how they use energy. This year we want to discuss how the electricity we use is generated. We will also highlight some of the significant changes that have been taking place in the industry and additional changes likely to come. We also need to mention energy efficiency: it’s a vital part of managing our changing energy system.
As the graphs below illustrate, there have been significant changes in how our energy has been produced in the last 10+ years. You will notice how the use of coal has decreased, renewables and natural gas have increased, and nuclear power has remained fairly constant.
Economics are now driving the change in our energy mix. The least expensive way to generate electricity today is wind power, with solar and natural gas generation close behind. New generation sources are so inexpensive that it often costs less to build new renewable generation than just to pay for the fuel, operations, and maintenance needed to keep old coal plants online. Coal is simply being priced out of operation. And, while we don’t know what will happen to the price of natural gas in the future, the costs of renewable sources and battery storage are continuing to come down.
Nationwide Levelized cost of energy (before accounting for federal tax credits)
Source: Lazard 2018 analysis
With increased reliance on renewable energy, consumers are likely to see and hear more about shifting usage to better match the production of energy. We want to take advantage of all of the low-cost clean power when it is available. For example, new time-of-use rates may mean consumers could pay less for energy consumed during low demand times, such as evening and overnight hours, and pay more during peak periods. Examples of this already exist and are being studied. Connexus Energy has implemented a Peak Time Rebate Program. Xcel will be doing a Time of Use Pilot Program in 2020.
Energy efficiency in our homes is another critical component of our current and future system. Heating and cooling comprises 55 percent of an average Minnesota home’s energy use and often represent the biggest opportunity for energy savings. This time of year, we are especially thinking about home heating. The majority of homes in Minnesota are heated by natural gas. Other heating sources used throughout the state include propane, electricity, wood, and heating oil. It is important we take opportunities to make sure our homes are well insulated and sealed, that our heating systems are in good working order and that we control our thermostats. These steps all help to reduce demand for heating fuels and save money. Luckily, many utilities provide incentives and rebates to encourage these energy efficiency practices. Use our utility rebate finder to learn more.
Energy Awareness Month is a great excuse to highlight energy issues important to Minnesotans, but for CUB it’s really a year-long effort! We look forward to continuing to keep you informed of all the existing and future energy opportunities in our state.
PDF version of 2019, Energy Awareness Month proclamation available here.