Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act makes a return appearance at the Legislature

The Energy and Utilities Committee heard a bill this week that aims to find ways to use less energy and save Minnesotans money. The bill – referred to as the ECO Act – is being revived again during the 2021 session after stalling in the Senate at the final hours of the 2020 regular legislative session.

The bipartisan bill seeks to gain cost-effective energy savings for utilities that operate within Minnesota – for investor- or consumer-owned utilities, as well as municipal utilities and rural cooperatives. It also mandates a move toward “innovative clean technologies” in energy production and sets criteria for utilities’ load management and efficient switching between fuel sources. If passed, it would broaden the ways energy conservation programs can be used to aid low-income households and would establish an asbestos insulation removal account within the state treasury.

Supporters of the legislation include a broad coalition of groups, ranging from trade unions to clean energy and consumer advocate groups, every electric utility in the state, the state’s two largest natural gas utilities, and many other private and nonprofit businesses. They argue this legislation would mark the first significant update to the Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) since 2007; the CIP program is considered to be a highly successful state program that has delivered consumer savings on energy bills and has supported over 45,000 local jobs statewide. Projects generated from the bill would create additional local jobs across the state in electrical, heating and cooling, ventilation, insulation installation, and technological innovation.

The bill passed with some amendments and will be sent to the Senate floor. If passed, it will go to a conference committee to work out the differences between the two versions of the bill. (SF 227)