Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program: 2018 Highlights at CEE
Nearly 40 years ago, Minnesota's Public Utilities Commission started a pilot to explore the feasibility of investing in energy efficiency at a system-wide level. Just three years later, the State determined that all utilities of a certain size would be required to put a "significant" investment into operating at least one conservation program — and Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) was off and running.
Since the 1980s, CIP-powered programs statewide have helped save Minnesotans a whopping $6 billion. Every year, such efforts serve homes and businesses with energy savings, improved productivity, and greater comfort. Saving energy makes sense because it’s about 80% cheaper to save energy than to buy energy. Plus CIP incentives help make improvements more affordable for everyone, and hiring contractors to do the work has led to about 50,000 jobs and about 500 electrical contractor businesses statewide.
Under contract with a number of energy utility companies, CEE delivers six CIP-powered programs. From small business offerings to home energy audits, industrial efficiency, multifamily energy savings, and more, CEE aims to help a wide range of utility customers meet energy demands at the lowest cost — preventing energy waste while contributing to Minnesota’s growing low-carbon economy. Of the CIP-affiliated programs that CEE delivers on behalf of utility clients, here are a few of our 2018 highlights:
One-Stop Efficiency Shop offers a full-service rebate program for small businesses, with a focus on lighting and rooftop unit improvements. One-Stop provides practical solutions to energy challenges by removing energy efficiency barriers, such as limited financial resources, lack of access to high-quality contractors, and time constraints. In 2018, One-Stop completed 2,699 projects, leading to the conservation of 15.5 megawatts and 73 gigawatt hours of energy, as well as $8.9 million in disbursed rebates and $6.8 million in annual savings for local businesses.
Home Energy Squad pairs on-the-spot installations with an energy assessment for greater home comfort and savings. Included with each visit, we install energy upgrades like LED bulbs, water savers, and smart thermostats. We partner with 26 local cities and neighborhoods (and counting) to help cut the cost of visits for residents. In 2018, we visited 5,688 homes and helped save about 5.5 gigawatt hours and 28,207 decatherms in total energy. Post-visit, 200 residents used CEE’s free Energy Advisor service to get contractor quotes for bigger efficiency improvements and cash in on insulation rebates. CEE delivers this program for Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy.
The Multifamily Energy Savings Program is provided by Minnesota Energy Resources to help multifamily building owners save energy through rebate incentives and direct installations of energy saving products like high-efficiency showerheads and faucet aerators. Since its inception, the program has served more than 7,000 multifamily units, resulting in an average of $30 per unit, per year savings on natural gas bills from direct install measures alone. In 2018, Minnesota Energy Resources developed partnerships with Minnesota Power, Otter Tail Power, Freeborn Mower, and Dakota Electric to provide joint natural gas and electric services to multifamily buildings. Thanks to the partnerships, the program visited 433 units and saved an additional $32 per unit, per year by installing LED light bulbs.
Regional Residential Energy Programs connect homeowners with energy-saving resources and provides information about efficiency methods through partnerships with local utilities, including Austin Public Utilities, Freeborn Mower Cooperative Services, Minnesota Energy Resources, Owatonna Public Utilities, and Rochester Public Utilities. Among its 2018 accomplishments, the program held four Neighborhood Energy Challenge workshops in Rochester and two webinar “Conserve & Save” workshop in Austin — all told, more than 150 households participated.
Energy Intelligence for Industry helps small Minnesota manufacturers understand energy use, and implement customized energy efficiency plans that prevent energy waste, through the use of 15-minute interval data displayed on an online dashboard. The program works with customers to identify free or low-cost opportunities to conserve energy, with an aim to identify 5% energy savings at each site. In 2018, Energy Intelligence enrolled 29 new customers and continued its work with previously enrolled participants, 35 of which completed the program in the past year.
Authorized Insulation Contractor Program offers insulation and air sealing services in the region served by Minnesota Energy Resources. Participating contractors benefit from easy access to competitive utility-paid rebates. In 2018, the program completed 29 onsite quality assurance inspections. The program also performed six phone quality assurance inspections, and trained three new Authorized Insulation Contractor crew leaders.
Again, these energy-saving success stories only cover the handful of programs delivered by CEE — the Conservation Improvement Program reaches much further through utilities and program implementers statewide.
When we save energy, it means less money is needed to go into generating energy. And all those energy savings are equal to about 14 percent of our energy system resources. Including (and far beyond) the programs that CEE delivers, the state's Conservation Improvement Program supports tens of thousands of jobs and has saved Minnesotans billions of dollars by reducing energy use.
Keeping CIP successful requires good policies, attention to customers, and lots of professionals on the ground. We’re proud to be part of that statewide conservation workforce, contributing our teams' skills and wisdom to promote energy efficiency — delivering community-based programs and resources that provide Minnesotans with practical ways to save energy and money while strengthening our natural environment.
Austin Public Utilities
Dakota Electric Association
Minnesota Energy Resources
Otter Tail Power Company
Owatonna Public Utilities
Rochester Public Utilities
Image credit: NREL/DOE