By Mark Bakk
Lake Country Power
The Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act, a bill many years in the making, will modernize the Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program (CIP). Enacted in 2007, CIP requires all gas and electric utilities to spend a portion of their revenues on energy conservation. The program has delivered real savings to Minnesotans on their energy bills through the adoption of technologies like LED lighting and Energy Star® rated appliances, providing more than $6 billion in net benefits to the state and supporting over 45,000 local jobs in every corner of Minnesota.
However, the program has become outdated and needs to be adapted to embrace beneficial and impactful new technologies and evolving trends. The ECO Act would modernize and expand CIP to recognize and respond to emerging technologies and consumer behaviors and demands. ECO would also include load management and efficient fuel-switching, expanding CIP’s ability to support local job opportunities by unleashing technology innovation and creating new utility programs to incentivize and install these technologies, saving customers energy and money. Currently, CIP does not take these things into account, all of which yield measurable and long-term environmental benefits.
Opponents, including the propane and other delivered-fuels industries, claim that ECO will harm their industry by forcing changes in fuel sources. This is not true. The bill neither imposes nor authorizes any forced changes in fuel sources; any change will be the decision of the individual consumer.
ECO will increase and expand workforce opportunities all over the state, by adding the next generation of technologies to the highly successful energy efficiency programs offered through CIP. The bill has broad stakeholder support, including the Minnesota Department of Commerce, utilities of all sizes and types, a broad group of non-profit advocates and associations that represent local electrical contractors.
We appreciate authors Sen. Jason Rarick and Rep. Zack Stephenson and other legislators from both sides of the aisle working for this much needed reform. The ECO Act has passed in both the House and Senate Energy Committees. The House recently passed the bill with bipartisan support, and we urge the Senate to bring the bill up for a vote and complete the task of passing the ECO Act.
You can advocate for protecting conservation goals, providing flexibility and putting consumers in control of what fuels they use by telling your Senator you support the ECO Act.
Mark Bakk is General Manager of Lake Country Power, a Touchstone Energy® cooperative serving parts of eight counties in northeastern Minnesota. The rural electric cooperative provides services to nearly 43,000 members and has offices located in Cohasset, Kettle River and Mountain Iron.