Media: NE/SE businesses and residents on high end of the curve when it comes to energy saving (Nort

Mar 21, 2016

From the Northeaster:

By Margo Ashmore

Dziedzic-Strom.pngBusinesses in Senate District 60 (primarily Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis) are saving almost $1.6 million per year in electricity costs, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by the equivalent of 263 cars, saving energy equal to the output of 39 football fields of solar. 

Residents who took advantage of 1,090 Home Energy Squad visits in the senate district are saving $108,312 annually. Taken together, the programs that produce and quantify these savings are called Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program (CIP). 

After a de-funding scare at the last legislative session, CIP officials mounted a statewide blitz to familiarize legislators with the program’s successes. State Senator Kari Dziedzic met with the group in February at 612Brew, where President and Co-Founder Adit Kalra explained the process. 

He had the background in business, Kalra explained, and the others knew beer. For beer wholesalers, having a taproom can provide the cash flow to stay afloat, he said. 

The building at 945 Broadway was in very bad shape, in such bad shape it was tough to figure out where the lights would go, said Mark Rader, a lighting consultant from Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) who helped design the lighting told them that they qualified for rebates. “It’s easy to apply, save a lot of money, take advantage of it.” 

According to literature available at the meeting, CEE’s One-Stop Efficiency Shop lighting saves 612Brew over $1,000 in electricity costs annually and contributed $2,300 in installation rebates. 

Jayson Oswald, from Landmark Electric, said the bids need to be submitted the right way, which he knows how to do. He commented that LED lighting is where most of the savings comes in, though the cost of the product is still higher (rebates mitigate that). LED will eventually take the place of repairing old lighting, and “when technology evens out, the rebates won’t be there.” 

Compared to other districts, Northeast and the rest of Senate District 60 are on the high end of the curve for using these energy programs. Businesses received more than $2.3 million in rebates. The money saved annually translates into 3,500 employee days, CIP statistics claim. 

Statewide, utility efficiency programs are 14 percent of the Minnesota energy system, equal to wind energy. Renewables and nuclear are 35 percent, and coal and natural gas are 51 percent, according to a CEE chart. 

“What are the barriers?” State Senator Kari Dziedzic asked. Discussion ensued, with various officials and interested parties piping up: Up-front financing is one barrier to using Conservation Improvement Program. Even with rebates, some businesses can’t afford the investment. A lot of new businesses and facilities have rolled it all in with the cost of construction, but many existing businesses have to wait until what they have wears out. CEE does have a financing arm that can help. 

“People just didn’t believe it,” CEE’s Sheldon Strom said of the early days. “Word of mouth has spread.” About 15,000 total businesses have been served, and he said there is need and capacity for another 15,000 businesses. 

One said “the policy you make at the state creates innovation.” He gave an example of LEDs, until recently, not being available in applications suitable to restaurants. Now, advances in technology spurred by programs like CIP have opened up that market. “If you lose the program it will be a damper on innovation. It is an acceleration on making product affordable.” 

Dziedzic asked questions about scale-ability for the future, and stayed in conversation with advocates after the formal program. 

Read the original article in the Northeaster at