Support and Issues
Federal energy issues
At MREA, we work in close partnership with the cooperative’s national organization, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), on a broad range of federal legislative and regulatory issues and policies.
We stay in contact with our federal congressional delegation and their staff and keep them informed regarding the cooperative positions and perspectives on energy issues and other policy items important to Minnesota’s rural electric cooperatives.
We interact and work with federal agencies on behalf of our membership.
We coordinate closely with Minnesota’s six generation & transmission cooperatives and 44 distribution cooperatives to hear their concerns regarding federal policy issues and provide a coordinated message to national policymakers and NRECA.
We coordinate grassroots activities among the Minnesota rural electric cooperative family, at both the state and the federal level. This effort includes organizing and directing three trips to Washington DC each year to provide our congressional delegation a direct perspective from cooperative directors, CEOs, and staff on our important issues. If you are interested in joining us, please search for upcoming DC trips on our events page.
For more information about energy and cooperative issues facing Congress, visit NRECA.
Sustainable conservation improvement program improvements for consumer-owned utilities
Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) has achieved significant success in reducing Minnesotans’ energy spending, catalyzing green industries in the state, postponing new electric generation construction, and reducing emissions. It has helped our members and citizens use electricity more wisely and facilitated the successful widespread adoption of new efficient technologies.
The continuing effectiveness of the program depends increasingly upon changes to it and the law governing it. Its scope and design no longer match its purposes, given its successes, its limitations, and the evolution of our energy industry and society. Many of the things it incentivizes have now been deployed to the point of saturation. People buy energy-efficient appliances without rebates. LED lighting is increasingly not only the preferred option but the only option. Perversely, beneficial electric usage (including electric vehicles) is discouraged since it results in higher energy sales. The existing CIP program fails to support and advance emerging technologies. Many consumer-owned utilities are capable of advancements the current program does not recognize. In its current format, the CIP program is unsustainable and increasingly ineffective. To continue meeting the multiple goals of the program, we need to develop an improved, sustainable program.
For consumer-owned utilities, CIP should be replaced with an initiative that:
- Reflects that consumer-owned utilities have a valuable role to play in Minnesota energy policy that can be better actualized through an improved approach.
- Recognizes multiple purposes: generation (kW) avoidance, end-use emissions reduction, customer cost savings, utility efficiency, and economic growth.
- Emphasizes end-use total energy efficiency rather than an absolute reduction in kilowatt-hours. Recognizes overall energy system efficiency improvements across sectors (e.g., transportation, agriculture, public).
- Recognizes efforts that advance any of Minnesota’s energy policy priorities, including utility innovation, distributed generation support, consumer education, Minnesota energy sustainability, and resiliency.
- Uses reasonable, credible metrics for illustrating success.
- Ensures the needs of low-income consumers are adequately addressed while placing an increased focus on multi-family residential buildings.
The goal of consumer-owned utilities is to develop a sustainable CIP for the people we serve by preserving the program’s benefits while expanding the opportunities to incentivize tomorrow’s innovations. Consumer-owned utilities are working with their respective memberships and stakeholders on improvements to CIP and hope to bring a solution to the legislature in the 2020 session. We appreciate legislative support of a sustainable CIP for cooperative and municipal utilities.
Cooperative choice in the Minnesota energy market
The wholesale energy marketplace in Minnesota is a fully competitive market. Utility-scale generation resources need to be cost-competitive to survive. The generation and transmission cooperatives that serve Minnesota cooperative member-owners compete in this Minnesota energy marketplace and have rapidly escalated their renewable energy portfolios in the process. We have long had established territorial boundaries with an obligation to provide affordable and reliable service to retail customers, which eliminates costly duplication of infrastructure and allows for rational planning. Some third-party energy providers advocate disrupting this successful approach by picking and choosing which customers to serve, breaking the longstanding compact establishing the utility within each territory has an obligation and a right to provide electric service. Allowing third parties this right to pick-off customers they can make the most profit from, often by creating complicated financing arrangements, will result in higher costs and degraded electrical service for everyone.
Minnesota electric cooperatives are member-owned and member-governed utilities. Member-owners create the cooperative they want for their community with the opportunities and options that suit their needs. This cooperative choice has led to industry-leading innovation, including:
- Energy choice programs: Delivering affordable and reliable renewable energy options to members who want more than the current renewable energy mix provided by their locally-owned cooperative. Many cooperatives offer electric vehicle owners all renewable energy options for charging their vehicles.
- Energy storage: Energy storage projects are often paired with cost-effective renewable energy. These energy storage projects are carefully designed to be economically fair to the entire membership of the cooperative.
- Community solar and storage: Minnesota electric cooperatives led the country in community solar, and now nearly all Minnesota electric cooperatives have some cost-effective community solar option. Community storage projects capture the storage capability of grid-enabled water heaters to store wind and other renewable energy when it is produced.
- Green energy for Minnesota businesses: Minnesota cooperatives work with their business member-owners to develop cost-effective renewable energy projects and offer businesses the option of getting all of their energy needs from cost-effective and reliable renewable energy.
- Minnesota electric utilities have an “obligation to serve.” This means electric utilities in Minnesota provide universal access to essential energy services, non-discriminatory rates, and consumer protections while avoiding duplication of costly infrastructure, and strong safety and reliability standards.
- In 2007, the Legislature passed a Renewable Energy Standard (RES), which requires 25% renewable energy by 2025 for all of the electric utilities in Minnesota. Cooperatives are on-track to meet or exceed the standard. At its peak time in 2017, 68% of the energy in this region of the country came from wind and hydropower resources.
- Third-party providers would not have the same service requirements and consumer protections that other utilities must have. We have seen recent schemes and scams from untrustworthy developers; allowing third-party sales would aggravate this problem.
- Minnesota electric cooperatives are not-for-profit returning ALL profits or margins to their member-owners as capital credits.
- Electric cooperative choice programs are member-driven and designed to limit the financial impact on the entire membership.
- Minnesota electric cooperatives provide choice to ALL member-owners within their mandated service territory.
- Choice programs at electric cooperatives are creating local jobs. These local jobs aren’t being funded through higher energy rates or cross-subsidization. Instead, they are the product of cost-effective energy marketplace innovation driven by cooperatives.
- While electric cooperatives are local community partners and economic development engines, they also provide an essential service: reliable, safe, affordable, and ever-increasingly renewable energy.
Support your electric cooperatives and the member-owners that drive industry-leading choice and innovation in the Minnesota energy marketplace.
Don’t allow third parties to cherry-pick the most desirable loads, tear down the territorial compacts serving us so well, and leave vital electric service more expensive and less reliable across our communities.
MREA works closely with these three regulatory agencies in Minnesota.
Minnesota Public Utilities Commission – Regulates the rates, services and/or policies of natural gas, electricity, and telecommunications providers. Approves resource plans for large electric utilities. Grants Certificates of Need for large energy facilities, including power plants and transmission lines. Approves financial incentives for energy conservation and serves as board of appeals for the Conservation Improvement Program. Approves co-generation and small power generation resources.
Minnesota Department of Commerce – Provides analysis and technical assistance to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Participates in proceedings before the Commission, including rate cases, resource plans, and certificates of need. Conducts the environmental review for large energy projects and provides technical expertise regarding their siting and routing.
USDA Rural Utilities Service – Makes infrastructure and infrastructure improvements, including electric power infrastructure, in rural communities. Provides capital and leadership to maintain, expand, upgrade and modernize America’s vast rural electric infrastructure. Provides loans and loan guarantees to finance the construction or improvement of electric distribution, transmission and generation facilities in rural areas. Funds demand-side management, energy efficiency and conservation programs, and on-and off-grid renewable energy systems.