CEE's Policy Framework: 10 essentials that guide our work
The CEE Policy Framework below represents both the road that brought us here and the road that pulls us forward. We created it to acknowledge and make explicit CEE's historical approach to public policy and also to publicly commit to key targets we’ll be aiming for as we continue on the road ahead.
This isn't a pie-in-the-sky "wish list." Rather, we've identified 10 essentials
we believe are required for the efforts of CEE and our partners to be successful, yesterday, today, tomorrow. If you’ve worked with CEE on policy issues in the past, much of this should seem familiar to you; if you haven’t, these 10 essentials highlight why we at CEE seek engagement in policy work within our broader mission (hint: it's in our DNA!), what in particular we're setting out to accomplish, and what specifically is demanding our primary focus right now.
From number 1 to number 10, when you see our name tied to policy efforts in Minnesota or around the country, you should be able to directly connect that
work with some aspect of this
A few of the things on this list are intrinsic to policy and politics, but most reach further because public policies aren't developed in a vacuum. Like any undertaking with long-term societal implications, our successful policy pursuits demand a broader context — including our ongoing transition to clean energy, empowered energy customers and communities, and deep collaboration among peers and colleagues at all levels.
And although this framework originated with our dedicated policy team, it also reflects input drawn from all around CEE, both leadership and staff, past and current — because just as policy development is necessarily embedded within a broader community context, CEE's policy strategies are firmly embedded throughout all our diverse programs and services.
Across the board at CEE, "reducing energy-related waste must be our top policy priority to serve and protect energy consumers, limit carbon emissions, and promote economic vitality." That is both our mission and our commitment to you.
CEE POLICY FRAMEWORK
Why we work on policy issues
1. Commitment to mission.
The Center for Energy and Environment exists to discover and deploy the most effective energy solutions for a healthy, low-carbon economy. We believe energy service for all is an essential element of modern life with profound public implications from energy use and production. We work on policy to maximize the overall benefits and reduce adverse consequences associated with this essential service.
2. Energy independence.
Midwestern states spend billions importing energy. We work on policies to shift away from imports when it is cost-effective to do so, toward efforts to reduce energy consumption and to expand use of the Midwest’s abundant renewable energy resources. Energy independence enhances the resilience and vitality of our local economies.
3. Clean energy transition.
The transition to a clean energy economy is one of the great challenges of our time, and the imperative for change grows daily as the effects of climate change becomes clearer and manifest in new and unpredictable ways. Midwestern states cannot solve climate change by themselves, but should work to reduce carbon emissions as quickly and broadly as possible, consistent with sustaining a healthy economy.
4. Good faith collaboration.
Our policy work often bridges disagreements between friends on all sides of a particular issue. We believe that, many times, the best and most durable energy policy outcomes arise from the collaborative efforts of diverse stakeholders listening and working together to identify and address concerns in good faith. This approach can often lead to highest common denominator outcomes, rather than the lowest.
What we work to accomplish
5. Reducing energy waste.
From reducing excess energy consumption and utility fuel use, to reducing customer costs that are higher than necessary for the services provided, reducing energy-related waste must be our top policy priority to serve and protect energy consumers, limit carbon emissions, and promote economic vitality. Energy efficiency is the least cost energy resource available to our utilities and consumers, and we work on policies to ensure that its value is fully captured.
6. Empowering customers and communities.
Empowering and protecting consumers and communities are core elements of CEE’s mission. We believe that Midwestern policy makers, regulators, and utilities should increasingly rely on programs and policies that allow communities meaningful opportunities for energy planning and implementation, in good faith collaboration with their utilities; increase customer and community access to energy usage and program participation data, while protecting the security and privacy of that data; make it easier for customers to undertake cost-effective, energy-related improvements; and ameliorate the cost and other impacts of energy production and use on communities and customers with lower average incomes.
7. Least-cost, most-effective policies.
Policymakers should prioritize those policies shown by data and experience to be the least-cost and most-effective means to reduce carbon emissions so that publicly directed dollars are spent wisely. In service of this, CEE’s field research to assess the savings potential and performance characteristics of specific energy approaches will continue to be one of our primary contributions to the public interest.
Key focus on utilities and local governments
8. Recommitment to the regulatory compact.
We continue to work for regulatory policies that ensure utilities provide top-notch consumer services, invest in infrastructure, guarantee universal access, increase environmental performance, and undertake long-range planning for reliable, affordable electric service with lower carbon emissions. In exchange for aligning their operations and programs with advancing the public interest, utilities should be given the opportunity to succeed as the primary energy service provider to their customers.
9. Evolving utility business model.
Well-regulated utilities can be powerful institutions for advancing the public interest, and the energy utility industry is changing in important ways. We work for policies that support the evolution of the utility business model (the method by which utilities recover their costs) in the face of these industry changes, to introduce innovation and price discipline, and to ensure Midwestern utilities are focused on exceeding customer expectations and are committed to the public interest.
10. Local government-utility partnerships.
As with well-regulated utilities, well-run local governments also rank among our society’s most powerful institutions to ensure the best public policy outcomes. Utilities and local governments working together can go further faster than they can alone to advance the broad public interest.
Photo credit: Dave WIlson