CEE Testimony in Support of MN's Conservation Improvement Program

Feb 25, 2021

On February 25, the Senate Energy Committee of the Minnesota State Legislature heard two bills (SF 301 and SF 992) that would eliminate or reduce the Conservation Improvement Program, which is the statute that enables utilities to offer energy efficiency programs, incentives, and rebates to customers.

Mike Bull, CEE's Director of Policy and External Affairs, offered the following testimony to the committee.

Thank you, Mr. Chair, members of the committee. My name is Mike Bull and I’m the policy director for the Center for Energy and Environment.

I appreciate the opportunity to address the Committee today in opposition to both SF 301 and SF 992. Both initiatives would reduce or eliminate energy efficiency opportunities for Minnesotans all over the state, increasing our energy bills, decreasing local job opportunities and leaving Minnesotans increasingly unready to withstand extreme weather events like we saw last week.

First, with regard to SF 301. As a Steele Waseca electric coop member, I believe that Senator Rarick’s SF 227, the Energy Conservation and Optimization act, better reflects the needs and priorities of Minnesota’s electric cooperatives and municipal utilities in three important ways.

One, Senator Rarick’s bill eliminates the energy conservation spending requirement for those utilities. Two, it provides a limited opportunity to count net energy saved through eligible fuel switching measures toward their energy savings goals. And three, Senator Rarick’s bill gives muni’s and coops significant regulatory flexibility with regard to the filing of their energy savings plans.

With regard to SF 992 — Senator Mathew’s bill would repeal the Conservation Improvement Program, the state’s most successful energy policy for decades, lock stock and barrel, eliminating all of the future benefits that Minnesotans can expect from that program.

CIP has delivered real savings on customer energy bills, saving Minnesotans billions over the years, both by reducing their energy consumption and by avoiding utility infrastructure investments that our utilities haven’t had to make, and customers haven’t had to pay for.

Energy efficiency is an energy resource that utilities purchase from their customers, so that utilities don’t have invest in other infrastructure, like new power plants.

A study issued by the MN Department of Commerce in 2018 found that cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities, and their associated benefits, will continue to be available all over the state for at least the next decade.

Energy efficiency is an energy resource that customers can rely on, even in terrible weather conditions. As bad as natural gas supply costs were from last week’s deep freeze event, natural gas costs for Minnesotans would have been drastically higher without the efficiency work that we’ve been doing over the prior years.

Instead of repealing CIP, we should be redoubling our efforts to get Minnesota homes and businesses more prepared for extreme weather events like the one we just experienced.

In addition, CIP supports over 47,000 local jobs in every corner of Minnesota — those are inherently local jobs all over the state that can’t be outsourced — electrical upgrades, and the installation of heating and cooling technologies, insulation and ventilation equipment … many of those jobs would be lost if CIP were repealed.

All that said, we can, and absolutely should, make CIP better. As I’ve testified to this committee, Senator Rarick’s Energy Conservation and Optimization bill is a significant and much needed refresh of CIP that is supported by a historically broad coalition of interests that we haven’t seen on an energy bill of this magnitude in a good long while. ECO is the result of painstaking negotiations among multiple competing interests — regulators, utilities of all sizes and types from all over the state, consumer groups, contractors, efficiency advocates, labor groups, and others.

ECO advances the public interest in energy effiency in multiple dimensions and SF 301 and SF 992 would take Minnesota backward. I want to thank Senator Rarick for his leadership and thank you Mr. Chair, members of the committee for the time today. I’m happy to stand for any questions you may have.

About CEE

Center for Energy and Environment is a clean energy nonprofit with special expertise in energy efficiency that stretches back 40 years. Working in homes, businesses, and communities, CEE discovers and deploys the most effective energy solutions to strengthen the economy and improve the environment.  

Media contact

Tim Hanrahan, thanrahan@mncee.org