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Conservation Improvement Program empowers energy-efficiency investments you can bank on

Recently we sat down in Senate District 67 with Minnesota State Sen. Foung Hawj and Rep. Sheldon Johnson to share some insights into our statewide energy future, grounded firmly in our local present.

Jamie Fitzke

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-efficient technologies, help homes and businesses cut energy costs, and reduce harmful emissions while conserving resources.

Each CIP strategy aims to strengthen our state’s economy and energy security. But during Minnesota’s last legislative session, an ill-informed bill was introduced to eliminate the CIP framework while weakening other clean-energy policies. Had it succeeded, the repeal would have dismantled the most successful energy policy in our state history. Thanks in large part to strong opposition by Minnesotans who recognize CIP’s benefits (including Hawj and Johnson), the bill’s clean-energy rollbacks were not ultimately enacted — but the threat remains.

Bill Kaufenberg

We’re working to protect CIP because we’ve seen its value firsthand. CEE’s One-Stop Efficiency Shop is a full-service lighting program that partners with energy contractors like Peoples Electric and Merit Electric to help small businesses in Xcel Energy Minnesota’s service territory with lighting needs assessments, efficiency recommendations, financing and guidance toward making improvements.

Smart investments

Thanks to CIP rebates and incentives through the One-Stop program since 2001, Senate District 67 alone has invested about $1.9 million in energy efficiency projects. The district’s One-Stop businesses have received over $765,000 in one-time rebates plus over $410,000 in annual cost savings. Local energy contractors like Merit and Peoples have earned over 1,000 related workdays. And, while saving the energy equivalent of 9.5 football fields of solar panels, we also cut 3,200 megatons of carbon annually — akin to pulling 533 cars off our roads.

Jeff Neuman

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.

The 2015 legislative session made clear that Minnesotans either need to protect CIP or risk losing it. With other pressing issues demanding legislators’ attention, we can’t afford for them to waste time debating about an outstanding program with decades of clear successes. The simple reality about energy efficiency:

  • It’s a major electric system resource, providing about 14 percent of the state’s energy system resources.
  • It’s cheap, costing only about 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, while saving Minnesota households more than $6 billion since 1995.
  • It employs nearly 10,000 Minnesotans at more than 445 businesses like People’s Electric and Merit Electric 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.

$4 in benefits for $1 invested

The math isn’t hard. As our 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 $4 in benefits for every dollar invested. CIP opens doors to new technologies in lighting, appliances, heating, ventilation, insulation, architecture and strategies to help businesses and homeowners save energy and money. And while strengthening our state’s economy, it also serves as a powerful mechanism to improve our public health and environment.

Wasted energy is like a leaky pipe — fix more leaks, stop more waste. District 67’s successes through CEE’s One-Stop program represent just one local chapter in the statewide story of CIP in action. Energy savings and wages earned by staff at Peoples Electric and Merit Electric offer local proof of CIP’s successes. And the pathways for achieving such successes would disappear without valuable rebates and incentives enabled through CIP.

So we offered personal experiences to help legislators better understand how CIP benefits local energy consumers and contractors, as well as electric utilities and our economy. To keep CIP safe, businesses and energy contractors 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.

Jamie Fitzke is a lighting consultant and policy associate at Center for Energy and Environment. Bill Kaufenberg is a field operations manager at Peoples Electric. Jeff Neuman is a project manager at Merit Electric.

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