Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) was created to help Minnesota residents, utilities, and businesses save money and energy in their natural gas and electricity use. Some of CIP’s benefits include improved awareness and adoption of energy efficient technologies, reduced energy costs for Minnesota households and businesses, deferred costly infrastructure investments, decreased carbon dioxide emissions, and conserved resources. Over the past three decades, CIP has been Minnesota’s most successful energy policy, producing nearly four dollars in energy savings for every dollar invested (Minnesota Department of Commerce).
Last spring, Minnesota passed the Energy Conservation and Optimization Act (ECO Act) as its next step on the path to energy efficiency and sustainability. The ECO Act will update and expand CIP, including expanded funding and options for low-income households, increasing the types of qualified energy saving technologies through efficient fuel-switching, increasing investor-owned electric utility conservation goals, and more. With a bright future ahead for CIP, CEE wanted to look back on the important work we were able to accomplish in 2021 with CIP’s support.
One-Stop Efficiency Stop
This program offers a full-service rebate program for small to midsize businesses in Xcel Energy’s Minnesota services territory, with a focus on lighting, free smart thermostat installations, and rooftop unit improvements. One-Stop provides practical solutions to energy efficiency challenges by addressing common barriers such as limited financial resources, lack of access to high-quality contractors, and time constraints. In 2021, One-Stop completed 2,151 projects including 826 smart thermostat installations, leading to the conservation of 12.8 megawatts and 53.5 gigawatt hours of energy, as well as $7.3 million in disbursed rebates and $5.1 million in annual savings for local businesses.
Home Energy Squad
CEE delivers this service for Xcel Energy and CenterPoint, which pairs on-the-post installations of energy-saving products with an energy assessment for greater home comfort and savings. At each visit, energy experts install upgrades like LED bulbs, faucet aerators, and smart thermostats. Despite a reduction in visits due to the pandemic, Home Energy Squad still completed over 6,500 visits in 2021 and helped save energy amounting to about 2.5 gigawatt hours and 17,000 decatherms. Additionally, more than 1,100 residents used CEE’s free Energy Advisor service to complete energy efficiency projects and earn rebates.
Multifamily Energy Savings Program
This program, provided by Minnesota Energy Resources, is designed to help multifamily building owners save energy through rebate incentives and direct installation of energy-saving products like high-efficiency showerheads and faucet aerators. Since its inception, the program has served more than 10,200 multifamily units, resulting in an average savings each year of $25 per unit on natural gas bills and an additional $25 per unit on electricity.
Regional Residential Energy Programs
These programs help connect homeowners with energy-saving resources and provide information about efficiency methods through partnerships with regional utilities such as Austin Public Utilities, Dakota Electric Association, Minnesota Energy Resources, Otter Tail Power, Owatonna Public Utilities, and Rochester Public Utilities. In 2021, there were five virtual Neighborhood Energy Challenge workshops for Rochester residents and over 100 households participated.
Authorized Insulation Contractor Program
This 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 2021, the program completed 26 on-site quality assurance inspections. The program also performed 14 quality assurance inspections in the form of remote phone interviews, added four new Authorized Insulation Contractor companies, and held two trainings for 19 people to become new Authorized Insulation Contractor crew leaders.
New Homes Single-family and Multifamily Rater Services
This program offers energy consulting and rater services to single-family new home builders and multifamily developers. For single-family new homes, the program performed a variety of energy ratings (HERS, ENERGY STAR, and DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes) for 119 homes and 16 builders. For multifamily developers, the program completed work on 13 buildings with five builders and seven developers, and certified five affordable housing projects in 2021.
Commercial Refrigeration Efficiency
This Xcel Energy program focuses on small businesses with significant refrigeration loads, like restaurants, convenience stores, and liquor stores. The full-service program offers technical assistance and rebates to small business owners who are interested in upgrading existing refrigeration equipment to more efficient options. In 2021, the program disbursed $25,000 in rebates and helped 70 businesses upgrade their equipment for a total first-year savings of over 500,000 kilowatt-hours.
Successful energy conservation requires thoughtful policies, excellent customer service, and high-quality work by a well-trained workforce. We are proud to be part of the vast CIP network that delivers programs tailored to Minnesota’s diverse communities. CIP drives our mission to strengthen the economy while improving the environment.