May 14, 2020
A bipartisan bill in Minnesota would reward utilities for encouraging customers to switch to less carbon-intensive fuels for heating, cooling and transportation.
The Energy Conservation and Optimization Act updates the state’s Conservation Improvement Program, which state officials say has provided $6 billion in benefits and created 46,000 jobs. The rare bipartisan measure attracted the support of all of the state’s investor-owned utilities, the Minnesota Rural Electric Association, along with several unions and environmental groups — including Fresh Energy, which publishes the Energy News Network.
Opponents include the propane industry, which believes a fuel-switching measure could hurt it despite the law’s “fuel-neutral” approach. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce told legislators the bill could raise utility costs, fails to promote cost-effective programming, and picks “winners and losers.” Several chamber members, however, support the legislation.
The bill cleared a House vote Monday by a 79-55 margin and had its second reading in the Senate on Wednesday.
Proponents say the bill would give utilities credit for a broader range of efficiency programs and boosts initiatives directed at low-income households. They argue the bill would create more jobs and give utilities more flexibility in meeting state carbon reduction goals.
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