Media: Mankato businesses cut waste and save money (MN Valley Business)

Apr 15, 2016

CEE helped facilitate this legislative learning session about CIP with Mankato-area businesses. Read the original article in the April 2016 issue of Minnesota Valley Business magazine

Mankato businesses cut waste and save money

Recently we sat down at Mankato’s Madison East Center with Minnesota State Senator Kathy Sheran, Representative Jack Considine, and Representative Clark Johnson to share our story about the positive economic impact of energy conservation in our businesses.

In 2007, Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act established energy-saving goals through the Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) for electric and gas utilities, overseen by the Department of Commerce. Driven by utility company rebates and incentives that pay for themselves, CIP encourages utilities to promote energy efficiency technologies, help homes and businesses cut energy costs, and reduce harmful emissions while conserving resources.

Almost 10 years later, we’re spreading the word about CIP because we’ve seen its value firsthand, through the One-Stop Efficiency Shop — one of Minnesota’s many CIP-related programs. “One-Stop” is a full-service lighting program that partners with energy contractors like Schwickert’s Tecta America, a local roofing and mechanical contractor, to help small businesses throughout Xcel Energy’s Minnesota service territory with lighting needs assessments, efficiency recommendations, financing, and guidance toward making improvements. 

Thanks to CIP rebates and incentives through the One-Stop program since 2001, Minnesota’s Senate District 19 alone has invested about $1.7 million in energy efficiency projects. The region’s One-Stop business clients have received over $700,000 in one-time rebates plus over $450,000 in annual cost savings. Local energy contractors like Schwickert’s have earned over 750 related workdays. And, while saving energy we didn’t need to generate, we also cut 3,865 megatons of carbon annually — akin to pulling 644 cars off our roads. 

Madison East has its own happy tale to tell. The shopping center’s energy-efficient lighting upgrades were implemented by Schwickert’s and subsidized through CIP-related rebates and incentives. Because of new efficiencies put in place, the center now saves over $40,000 in energy spending every year. And boosted by rebates from Xcel Energy amounting to nearly $55,000, our savings covered the cost of upgrades in about two years.

Businesses work hard to invest wisely because every penny has to count. And when you invest in saving energy, you earn much more than a one-time return on your investment. Through the hard work and expertise of Minnesota’s energy contractors, businesses save tens of thousands of dollars every year after they improve their energy use — money they can reinvest in staffing, customer engagement, and services, much smarter channels for limited resources. 

For many reasons, investing in energy efficiency is an easy choice to make:
  • It’s a major electric system resource, providing about 14% of the state’s energy system resources.
  • It’s cost-effective, with minimal expense to implement and quick paybacks, saving Minnesota households more than $6 billion dollars since 1995.
  • It employs nearly 10,000 Minnesotans at about 450 businesses like Schwickert’s throughout the state.
  • It cuts carbon while preserving productivity. Through energy efficiency measures implemented because of CIP, the state’s utility customers will avoid almost 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The math isn’t hard. As the state’s energy needs grow, we can either buy more (8 cents per kilowatt-hour), or save more (1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour). Plus the latest data indicate CIP generates about four dollars in benefits for every dollar invested. CIP opens doors to new technologies in lighting, appliances, heating, ventilation, insulation, architecture, and other strategies to help businesses save energy and money. And while strengthening our economy, it also serves as a powerful mechanism to improve our public health and environment.

Energy waste is like a leaky pipe — fix more leaks, stop more waste. District 19’s successes through the One-Stop program represent one local chapter in a statewide story of CIP in action. Savings and wages earned by energy contractors like the team at Schwickert’s offer local proof of CIP’s successes. And the pathways to achieve such successes would disappear without the rebates and incentives enabled through CIP.

So we offer our personal experiences to help legislators better understand how CIP benefits local energy consumers and contractors, as well as electric utilities and our economy. Businesses statewide would do well to join us and inform your own district’s policymakers about the valuable role the Conservation Improvement Program plays in your own lives and livelihoods. 

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Co-authors: Cristen Manthe is director of marketing for Coldwell Banker Commercial Fisher Group, which manages Madison East Center. Julie Leiferman is head of business development for Schwickert’s Tecta America. 

Read the original article in the April 2016 issue of Minnesota Valley Business magazine