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Senate to hear bills to roll back or eliminate long-standing energy conservation law

Published February 24, 2021

Tomorrow, the Senate energy committee will hear bills that would roll back opportunities for Minnesotans – especially in Greater Minnesota – to conserve energy and save money on their utility bills. CUB is asking people in key senate districts to contact their senators and ask them to oppose these bills (more information below). 

Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) law requires most electric and gas utilities to offer conservation rebates and other energy efficiency offerings to their customers. If you’ve ever gotten a rebate on an LED light bulb or an efficient appliance, a discounted energy audit, weatherstripping, or a low-flow showerhead from your utility, you have used this program. 

The conservation programs help participating customers permanently reduce their energy bills and their impacts on the environment – and the programs help all ratepayers, because it is less expensive for the utility to help people cut energy waste than to purchase the energy that would have otherwise been used. In fact, it’s a requirement of the law that any conservation measures included in these programs be cost-effective. In 2018 and 2019, the most recent data available, saving a megawatt of electricity through the conservation improvement program cost 2.5 to 8 times less than the average cost of generating the same amount of energy.

There can especially be savings for cooperative or municipal utilities that buy all of their power from another entity. Purchased power is often the largest cost for these utilities by far. If customers can bring down their usage, especially at peak times when the cost of power is very high, it reduces the coop’s expenses, which then lowers costs for everyone receiving energy through the co-op. 

One bill that will be heard Thursday (SF 301, carried by Senator Kiffmeyer) would make conservation programs optional for cooperative and municipal utilities, meaning many people in Greater Minnesota may no longer have the same opportunities to save energy and money as their peers in the Twin Cities. Another bill (SF 992, carried by Senator Mathews) would eliminate the law entirely.

On February 11, the same Senate committee passed the ECO Act, which updates the Conservation Improvement Program law. CUB supports the ECO Act, as do the state’s utilities and a large coalition of business, labor, and advocates. Now, just two weeks later, the committee is hearing bills that take the state in the opposite direction. 

Energy conservation under the Conservation Improvement Program law is an integral element of Minnesota’s utility policy. It has been in place for decades. It has provided many millions of dollars in benefits to Minnesota families and businesses, greatly reduced air emissions, and avoided the expense of constructing multiple power plants that would have otherwise been needed to meet electricity demand.

If you are represented by Senator Kiffmeyer, Senator Mathews, or any members of the Senate energy committee, please contact them and ask them to support the Conservation Improvement Program at the hearing. The hearing will take place via video from 3:00-4:30 p.m. tomorrow. You can find more information and a link to watch here.

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Author: Annie Levenson-Falk

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