Senate Passes ECO Bill to Give Consumers More Choice and Save More Money On Energy Costs

On Thursday, Senator Jason Rarick’s (R-Pine City) Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) bill passed with bipartisan support, 38-27, off the Senate floor. The legislation, S.F. 227, expands Minnesota’s existing Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) program to increase consumer choice, save Minnesotans money and energy while supporting local businesses.

“While Xcel Energy, Otter Tail Power, and Minnesota Power have had a relatively easy time making these improvements every year, our electrical co-ops and municipals have really struggled to keep up,” Rarick said. “ECO eases the requirements on them, making efficiency goals more attainable and ensuring we don’t drive folks out of business. The changes also reward institutions that are already succeeding, giving them the financial flexibility they have earned. Coupled together, these reforms move Minnesota’s energy priorities in the right direction while expanding consumer choice, lower energy bills, and reducing our footprint over time.”

The current Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) is a statewide program that requires all electric and natural gas utilities to provide energy savings opportunities, primarily through financial incentives and rebates, to their customers. Those activities include; efficient lighting and control systems, efficient water heaters, low-flow showerheads, A/C cycling programs, and home energy audits. The CIP incentives and rebates make energy efficiencies more affordable for households and helps them cut their utility bills while also preventing energy waste and lowering harmful gas emissions. 

Research has also shown it is 80% cheaper to save energy than to generate more energy. Since the program began in the 1980s, the CIP program has saved Minnesotans around $6 billion. In fact, all those savings added up are equal to about 14% of Minnesota’s energy generation. In addition, the hiring of contractors to do efficiency-related work has led to about 50,000 jobs and support around 500 electrical contractor businesses statewide.

Lastly, ECO will move Minnesota ahead of the market and prepare utilities for continuing technological advancements as society continues to move towards efficient electric energy systems and away from fossil fuels. The legislation also ensures energy providers will not have to scramble to apply for statutory relief each year as these changes occur.