Bill will reduce consumers’ total energy bills and provide better tools for reducing emissions
(MAPLE GROVE, MINN.) – The Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act, a bill many years in the making, passed the legislature Monday with a decisive bipartisan vote of 58-9 in the Minnesota Senate and is expected to be signed by Gov. Walz by the end of the month. The bill passed the Minnesota House on Saturday with a vote of 88-46. The provisions in this bill will modernize Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) by allowing energy providers to embrace beneficial and impactful new technologies and evolving trends.
“The passage of the ECO Act is great news for Minnesota’s energy consumers,” says Darrick Moe, president and CEO of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA), which represents electric cooperatives that serve consumers in all of Minnesota’s 87 counties. “The legislation will help to reduce electric cooperative consumers’ total energy bills and provide better tools for reducing carbon emissions.”
Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program requires all gas and electric utilities to spend a portion of their revenues on energy conservation. The program delivered real savings to Minnesotans on their energy bills through the adoption of technologies like LED lighting and Energy Star® rated appliances, providing more than $6 billion in net benefits to the state and supporting over 45,000 local jobs in every corner of Minnesota. But as new technologies have emerged, CIP became outdated and needed reforms to continue providing tangible savings and environmental benefits.
The leadership of the state’s electric cooperatives was instrumental in crafting a compromise reflecting the interests of a broad-based stakeholder group. The ECO Act brings many positive reforms to the outdated CIP, including allowing programs that lower total energy use to count toward part of electric utilities’ energy savings goals even if electricity use is not reduced. The bill also ends the spending mandate. This unlocks the potential of recent technological advancements while eliminating the antiquated spending mandate that doesn’t benefit end-use consumers.
As part of the reforms, efficient fuel switching improvements will allow cooperatives to offer programs that substitute electricity for a customer’s current fuel when those programs achieve a
trifecta of (1) reducing the overall amount of energy; (2) reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and (3) reducing consumer costs.
“Not only will the ECO Act benefit consumers’ pocketbooks while contributing to Minnesota’s conservation goals, but it also will increase and expand workforce opportunities all over the state,” Moe says.
“We are proud that the bill had significant and diverse stakeholder support, including the Minnesota Department of Commerce, utilities of all sizes and types, a broad group of nonprofit advocates and associations that represent local electrical contractors. This is a win-win-win for consumers, energy providers and all sectors of Minnesota.”
As part of the next steps implementing the ECO Act, MREA will work with its members, who provide electricity to 1.7 million Minnesotans, and other stakeholders to seek ways to make low-income spending more effective.
Moe adds, “This is the most significant and beneficial reform to the state’s energy efficiency standards – a cornerstone of the state’s energy policy – since they were implemented.”
ABOUT THE MINNESOTA RURAL ELECTRIC ASSOCIATION
The Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) is a nonprofit trade association serving Minnesota’s electric cooperatives. MREA provides legislative and regulatory representation, director and employee education programs, technical training for electric cooperative line workers, and serves as the focal point for cooperation among cooperatives. Minnesota’s 44 distribution cooperatives serve about 1.7 million Minnesotans in all 87 counties and operate the largest distribution network in the state with more than 135,000 miles of electric lines.
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