May 20, 2021
Minnesota’s regular legislative session ended on May 18 with the biggest clean energy win since 2013, strengthening our most successful energy policy in state history. After six years of hard work and deep bipartisan collaboration, the Energy Conservation and Optimization Act (known as “ECO”) was approved in both houses and will now be signed into law.
As designed, ECO will protect all the end-use energy efficiency work of the Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) that has already saved Minnesotans $6 billion over the years. Building on CIP’s successes, ECO now adds opportunities to leverage energy demand as a more active and significant part of our state’s clean energy transition, opening doors to a greater range of fuel choices and more opportunities to benefit from energy use timed to align with periods of lower demand on our energy grid.
My CEE colleagues and I started working on the bill that became ECO right after the close of the 2015 legislative session. During that session, the House passed a bill that would have repealed the Conservation Improvement Program in 2016. This would have given stakeholders just 12 months to agree on a replacement policy or lose CIP altogether. Although we were able to stop that 2015 proposal from becoming law, it served as a tremendous wake up call. We knew we needed to reconnect key stakeholders to the benefits of energy efficiency. We also needed to develop general agreement about how best to approach CIP reform, including specifics in the bill that eventually became ECO.
From start to finish, this process took a tremendous amount of time and effort — and along the way, our coalition of supporters grew. In developing the bill, we painstakingly layered each stakeholder’s “gotta-haves” in alignment with everyone else’s. In the end, ECO represents a highest common denominator agreement among our broad and diverse coalition, rather than a lowest common denominator that is usually the case in legislative negotiations.