Proposed legislation would broaden MN access to efficient, high-quality home heating and cooling

Mar 22, 2023
Audrey Partridge testimony to MN Legislature

Aligned with utility programs supported by Minnesota’s Energy and Conservation Optimization Act (ECO), the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will empower more people to invest in air source heat pumps (ASHPs), a highly efficient way to both heat and cool buildings. But to make ASHPs more broadly affordable in Minnesota, homeowners will need additional financial support through rebates. They’ll also need highly skilled installers who can ensure effective ASHP installations.

On March 21 at the Minnesota State Legislature, CEE’s Director of Policy Audrey Partridge provided expert testimony on bill HF2771/SF2775, authored by Rep. Patty Acomb in the House and Sen. Jennifer A. McEwen in the Senate. If approved, this legislation would establish a program in the Minnesota Department of Commerce to provide rebates of up to $4,000 for Minnesota households to purchase and install residential heat pumps in combination with insulation improvements. The program would also provide funding for a statewide energy advisor service to connect residents to local energy auditors and contractors, and the different utility, state, and federal incentive options, as well as train and support contractors.

Together, these efforts will help accelerate adoption of ASHPs, an important tool for lowering emissions from Minnesota buildings, while helping Minnesota to guard against high utility bills and mitigating peak impacts on the electric system. Read on for Audrey Partridge’s full testimony to the MN State House Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee.

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Chair Frentz and members of the committee, I am Audrey Partridge, director of policy at Center for Energy and Environment. Thank you so much for having me today. And thank you Sen. McEwen for authoring SF 2775.

As you’ve all heard many times in this Committee, the IRA is the largest and most ambitious federal investment in energy efficiency and building electrification in the history of the United States. Even so, implementation barriers remain for some of the opportunities included in IRA. This bill will help Minnesotans turn two of the highest impact IRA opportunities — air sealing and insulation improvements and air source heat pumps — into real home energy improvements by addressing the three biggest barriers we anticipate for implementation of IRA.

First, this bill helps to address upfront project costs. While IRA incentives are significant, upfront project costs for heat pump installations and insulation projects will be much higher than IRA incentives for most homeowners. This bill helps to lower the upfront costs of these projects. Plus, by providing a bonus rebate for air sealing and insulation, paired with efficient heat pumps, the bill encourages projects that maximize energy efficiency, reducing costs to participants and reducing the peak impacts of electric space heating on our energy system, which keeps utility costs lower for everyone.

Second, between IRA, utility ECO incentives, and state tax credits/incentives, it will be complicated for people to navigate the requirements and opportunities available to them. This bill includes an energy coordinator service, available statewide, to help people understand the opportunities available to them and how to access those opportunities. The energy advisor will act as the entry point and navigator to all the overlapping utility, state, and federal programs that, together, make these projects pencil out for households.

Third, this bill includes funding for training, certification, and support for HVAC contractors. Implementing the opportunities in IRA will require lots of trained workers. This bill will help to ensure that Minnesotans across our state will be able to find and hire the trained, high-quality workers needed to improve their homes.

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As of March 22, the proposals have been laid over by committees in both chambers for inclusion in omnibus bills in coming weeks.


Related Links

WCCO: How heat pumps could save you some cold, hard cash

CEE ASHP Research

MN ASHP Collaborative

Homeowner ASHP FAQs

CEE's Policy Framework