Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act moves to Senate floor

The Energy and Utilities Committee met this week to consider legislation aimed at finding ways to use less energy and save Minnesotans money. The bill seeks to gain cost-effective energy savings for utilities that operate within Minnesota, including investor- or consumer-owned as well as municipal utilities and rural cooperatives. Under the bill, most utilities would be required to raise the percentages of their annual gross operating revenues that must be devoted to energy savings.

The bill also mandates a move toward “innovative clean technologies” in energy production and sets criteria for utilities’ load management and efficient switching between fuel sources. The proposal broadens the ways energy conservation programs can be used to aid low-income households and establishes an asbestos insulation removal account in the state treasury.

If enacted, this legislation would bring the largest update to Minnesota’s energy conservation program since 2007.  Supporters argue:

  • The current Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) limits energy efficiency programs to electric and natural gas technologies that reduce electric and natural gas consumption.  The bill expands CIP opportunities by allowing load management programs that modify the timing of energy consumption, and limited fuel switching to more efficient technologies and lower carbon fuels
  • The bill would help save customers energy and money while supporting local economies.  The projects that would evolve from these changes are generally local jobs in electrical, heating and cooling, ventilation, and insulation installation
  • Many companies that build the technology that would evolve as a result of these changes are Minnesota businesses.  Job opportunities would expand statewide by adding these new technologies

The concepts for this bill have been evolving for some time and are widely supported by dozens of organizations. Most provisions were included in Governor Tim Walz’s legislative proposals announced last year. Advocates say the state’s energy conservation program puts money back in the pockets of Minnesotans, with a $4 return on every $1 invested in energy conservation, and that will only improve with the changes brought forward in this bill.

The bill passed the Energy Utilities Committee on a wide bipartisan vote and was forwarded to the Senate floor. (SF 4409)