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Impact

 

Impact

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) of Minnesota was formed in 2016 to advocate for Minnesota utility consumers. Based on the model of the Citizens Utility Board of Illinois, CUB Minnesota’s goal is to promote affordable energy service for utility ratepayers throughout the state.

We advocate for everyday Minnesotans at both the Minnesota legislature and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). CUB monitors utility activity and legal filings, fights rate hikes, and pushes back against unfair regulatory decisions that harm energy consumers in the state. Since our founding, we’ve saved Minnesotans millions of dollars and won major protections for Minnesota ratepayers.

We act as a resource hub for ratepayers struggling with their bills. Since our inception, we’ve shared information with  over 13,000 people to help them navigate their energy options and address their energy concerns. We’ve provided multiple trainings to workplace and social service organizations, community groups, and municipal staff to better understand how energy policy affects all Minnesotans. Our website houses numerous resources and tools to help ratepayers navigate energy bills, home upgrades, and energy policy. We provide monthly Energy Bill Clinics where any Minnesotan can ask questions about their energy bill, free of charge.

As the energy world rapidly shifts away from pollutive fossil fuels which damage both our environment and our health, CUB advocates for consumer interests and works to help them understand the options made available to them. As low-cost renewables, customer-owned generation, new grid technologies, and in-home electrification become more and more common, CUB will continue to act as a watchdog for Minnesotans looking for reliable, affordable, safe, and clean home energy. 

If you or someone you know has questions about their energy bill, or if you’re looking to learn more about energy policy in Minnesota, contact us at 651-300-4701 or email us at info@cubminnesota.org today.


We brought bill savings, shutoff protections, energy efficiency strategies, and more to households across the state through partnerships with dozens of local organizations and through conversations with 2,000 Minnesotans.
We helped save Xcel customers approximately $80 million per year on their electric bills by winning a lower approved return on equity, a key determinant of company profits.
We saved Minnesota Power customers nearly $1 million by demonstrating that the company spent imprudently on a major software purchase.
We won a requirement that gas utilities conduct transparent planning subject to public input and regulatory approval. Energy systems are changing rapidly, and now more than ever, utilities and customers need to think ahead and adapt to changes in the natural gas sector. This planning is absolutely critical if Minnesota is to decarbonize heating and ensure that benefits and costs are shared fairly through the process. In 2023, the Public Utilities Commission adopted CUB’s recommendation to require gas utilities to conduct planning similar to the “integrated resource planning” that has long been required of electric utilities.
We published research showing that Minnesota natural gas bills will multiply under utilities’ business-as-usual plans. Seeking ever-increasing returns, Minnesota gas companies plan to continually increase gas utility spending each year. Our analysis found that this could cause average delivery costs paid by customers to more than triple by 2040 – and that costs could rise astronomically for renters and lower-income households who aren’t able to install efficiency measures or purchase electric appliances. We are working hard to head off such a future, including through the new utility planning requirement mentioned above.
We launched the Clean Heat Minnesota coalition with dozens of partners throughout the state. This diverse partnership seeks to decarbonize heating by 2050 and to ensure that the transition is fair to all Minnesotans.
We won the passage of a bill to expand public-interest representation in utility decisions. The “intervenor compensation” bill allows Tribal nations and nonprofits with a financial need to be reimbursed for costs of participating in proceedings before the Public Utilities Commission.
We helped to pass a 100% carbon-free electricity law. This law will decarbonize Minnesota’s electric system at the pace needed to address climate change while protecting consumers and the grid, supporting local workers, and ensuring no one gets left behind in the transition to clean electricity.
We helped save Minnesotans nearly $60 million from the February 2021 gas price spike. During Winter Storm Uri, gas prices skyrocketed around the country, and Minnesota utilities spent hundreds of millions on gas supplies. CUB’s expert testimony helped to demonstrate that the utilities spent carelessly, expecting customers to foot the bill. Over utility company protests, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) required utilities to share the burden with their customers.
We brought energy efficiency, bill savings, and more to households in all corners of Minnesota. CUB teamed up with partners from Red Lake Nation; immigrant households in the Winona area (with Project FINE); Latinx organizers in St. Cloud, Mankato, Worthington and the Twin Cities (with Unidos); farmers from around the state; a consortium of Twin Cities local governments helping residents electrify their homes; and many more. At the end of the year, we’ll be providing our energy tips in six languages, and we’ve produced a series of videos to help with home heating and cooling, solar, avoiding shutoffs, and more.
We uncovered CenterPoint Energy, Inc.’s $1.3 billion gain from a deal with a Texas company that benefited from the 2021 gas price spike. CUB research examined a merger involving the parent company of Minnesota’s largest gas utility and Energy Transfer, a pipeline company that made more than $2.4 billion during the brief price spike (and was subsequently sued for price gouging). This was perhaps one of the most egregious examples of the “tale of two economies” that we have lived through over the past couple of years, though certainly not the only such example.
We fought rate hikes. CUB brought national experts to testify against double-digit rate hike requests by Minnesota Power and Xcel. Minnesota Power also halved its interim rate increase after the company worked with CUB and our friends at the Energy CENTS Coalition. The PUC will make final determinations in both cases in 2023.
We published strategies for energy efficiency programs to better serve renters, lower-income households, and Minnesotans of color. The Minnesota Department of Commerce selected CUB and our partners to conduct research into how to reduce inequities in utility efficiency programs, resulting in our report, Strategies for Equitable Energy Efficiency Program Design, A toolkit for two high-priority populations in the Twin Cities: Black homeowners and property owners renting to Latinx households.
We successfully pushed Xcel to allow mid-size solar to compete with utility projects. After advocacy by CUB and others in Xcel’s integrated resource plan proceeding at the PUC, Xcel will allow mid-size solar systems, which do not require transmission wires, to compete with utility-owned and other larger projects in bidding processes. This opens a market for these types of systems in Minnesota.
Protecting Minnesotans from shutoffs: CUB was part of a coalition that won a moratorium on disconnections for customers of the state’s regulated utilities at the start of the pandemic. In 2021, we negotiated with the utilities to extend that moratorium through the end of April 2022 for anyone receiving energy assistance. Meanwhile, we have consulted one-on-one with hundreds of Minnesotans to help them avoid disconnection – or, if they were already shut off, to get their utility service restored. And we’re working with the utilities and state agencies to help get assistance to the many families that qualify.
Stopping Xcel Energy’s expensive fossil fuel investments: Despite its promise to go carbon-free, Xcel is planning to invest hundreds of millions of its customers’ money in new fossil fuel plants. CUB’s Consumers Plan presents a cleaner, less expensive, and less risky alternative for the Public Utilities Commission. CUB and allies already stopped the construction of one new natural gas plant, and we’re gearing up to demonstrate that Xcel can reliably meet customer needs without any others.
Fighting excessive gas spending during the February freeze: Minnesotans should not have to cover all of the extra $600 million that natural gas companies paid for supply during the Winter Storm Uri, which froze much of the midwestern and southern United States. CUB is fighting back in a case before an administrative law judge. We are demonstrating that the utilities spent carelessly, expecting customers to foot the bill, and will ask the Public Utilities Commission to prevent utilities from charging customers for hundreds of millions of their spending during the storm.
Fighting rate hikes: Xcel Energy, CenterPoint Energy, and Minnesota Power have all asked to hike their rates – some by as much as 21%. These increases will be unaffordable for many consumers if they are allowed to go forward. CUB’s advocacy helped reduce interim rate increases (see more here and here). We are lining up expert witnesses and preparing to intervene on behalf of customers in the rate cases for Xcel electricity and Minnesota Power.
Improving equity in energy conservation: With a cohort of Twin Cities community-based organizations and a research project for the State of Minnesota, CUB is improving energy efficiency programs to better serve renters; low-income consumers; and Minnesotans who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. From Red Lake to south Minneapolis, CUB partners with those most affected to reduce energy expenses, address persistent inequalities, and restructure energy systems.
Won a moratorium on disconnections and fees for the state’s regulated utilities during the COVID-19 pandemic and protected Minnesotans from utility shutoffs.
With a team of top national experts, developed an alternative plan for a rapid, low-cost clean energy transition for Xcel. The Consumer’s Resource Plan, CUB’s alternative to Xcel’s 15-year integrated resource plan, will map the cleanest and most cost-effective electricity future for Xcel’s customers.
Won approval of utility data access that is essential to address inequities in utility systems. This year, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) adopted CUB’s proposed Open Data Access Standards.
Urged the PUC to address present and long-standing disparities in the energy system in its efforts to assist in the economic recovery from COVID-19. We are asking the PUC to ensure that any utility spending intended for economic recovery must help those most in need in the current economy, prioritizing initiatives that have a clear, measurable, and positive impact on BIPOC and low-income Minnesotans.
Continued the work of the Energy Efficiency Peer Learning Cohort. The effort examines how energy efficiency programs could better serve low-income households, renters, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities while helping community leaders understand how to take advantage of the programs that exist today.
Helped more than 300 Minnesotans to understand their rights, responsibilities, and resources to avoid disconnection – or, if they were already shut off, to get their utility service restored. When COVID hit, we quickly shifted largely to online communications, often talking with people through Facebook messenger.
Helped more than 1,700 consumers across Minnesota cut their energy bills, reduce their carbon emissions, and get involved in key energy policy issues through presentations and events – all held remotely for three-quarters of the year.
Blocked a bill that would have shifted $467 million in electricity costs from Minnesota’s largest businesses onto Minnesota ratepayers. As the primary advocate for energy consumers at the legislature, CUB was instrumental in educating lawmakers about what this bill would do and preventing it from moving forward.
Advanced energy data access for the public interest. In 2019, CUB filed a formal petition with the Public Utilities Commission to make electricity data available for research that can reduce waste, save consumers money, and cut emissions. Our petition for Open Data Access Standards is currently before the PUC. This petition follows a similar bill that CUB advanced at the legislature earlier in the year, which was passed by the House of Representatives.
Opposed Xcel’s purchase of a gas power plant in a manner that would have compromised consumer protections and could have ultimately cost consumers a great deal of money. The PUC agreed and denied the purchase.
Helped over 2,200 consumers across Minnesota cut their energy bills, reduce their carbon emissions, and understand the latest in energy policy and trends through presentations, events, and our signature utility bill clinics.
Helped the average Minnesota household save more than $150 and 1,300 pounds of carbon per year through each individual energy consultation.
Protected consumers from millions of dollars in unproven spending on power plants as the primary advocate for energy consumers at the Minnesota Legislature.
Carmen consultSaved Minnesota households $150 and 1,500 pounds of carbon emissions per year on average with each individual energy consultation. That’s like each person driving nearly 2,000 fewer miles a year.
Sheekh tablingHelped over 1,700 Minnesotans cut their energy bills through presentations, events, and our signature utility bill clinics.
Power linesAdvocated for cheaper, cleaner energy options through a modernized electric grid, consumer-friendly rates, cost-effective renewable energy, and advanced utility pilots.
CUB presentation iconMade Minnesotans aware of energy policy decisions that affect them, and helped consumers make their voices heard in the process.
CUB helped 1,800 people save money on their utility bills, reduce their carbon emissions profile, and become more energy efficient through energy presentations, interactions at community events, and one-on-one utility bill consultations.
Won consumer protections at the legislature that would have otherwise allowed Xcel Energy to charge customers for a new power plant with nearly no regulatory review.
Represented the consumer perspective in task forces to ensure consumer protections in clean energy financing; increase energy efficiency; and maximize cost effective, renewable energy.
Made Minnesotans aware of pending rate increases that would affect them, and helped consumers make their voices heard in the process.

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