Nationwide, over 16 million households struggle to meet their heating, cooling and other energy needs, but energy efficiency is increasingly recognized as a potential solution to this problem. In 2018, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri began holding income qualified energy efficiency stakeholder collaboratives to strengthen program design and delivery for these communities. Throughout the Midwest, decision makers across the political spectrum recognize the value of low-income energy efficiency in helping families afford their basic energy needs.
On May 4, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 2311(SF 2311) into law, which will make significant changes to the way utilities drive customer energy savings programs within the state. Most notably, the bill caps utility investments in energy efficiency and created a broad opt-out provision for all customers.
This year's Midwest Energy Solutions Conference (MES) incorporated interactive workshops into its agenda for the first time ever, and one of the three workshops focused on Net Zero Energy (NZE) in the Midwest. MEEA staff wanted attendees to consider what Net Zero Energy means for energy efficiency (EE) in the Midwest specifically. (For the purposes of the workshop, “NZE” was referring to any building, development or community that does not use more energy than it produces. See DOE’s NZE definitions).
Last week the Iowa House Commerce Committee passed Senate File 2311, a bill that will significantly alter the way utilities drive customer energy savings programs in Iowa. The bill has already passed the Senate and is now eligible to go to a debate on the House floor.
Energy efficiency investments and their resulting energy savings drive financial benefits throughout the Midwest region. To spread these benefits, on February 7, 2018, MEEA will host the "Good EE Policy for Economic Growth Summit" in Chicago. This free summit, sponsored by E4theFuture and preceding the 2018 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, will focus on the ways energy efficiency advocates develop sound policy to drive regional economic and job growth.
The average Midwesterner pays 65% more for electricity than they did at the turn of the millennium. Saving energy is a key way to help lower customer bills even with rising rates. Utility Consumer Advocates (UCAs) represent residential customers before regulators and legislatures, and they use their expertise to help ensure ratepayer dollars are spent prudently and cost-effectively.
Improving energy performance in buildings is a key strategy for the City of Chicago, which has committed to upholding the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. This includes a 26-28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025; the city is currently 40% of the way to meeting that goal. Because the energy used in buildings accounts for over 70% of the city’s current greenhouse gas emissions, reducing building energy use is essential to meeting this goal.
As a membership organization that includes utilities, businesses, advocates and government agencies, MEEA knows the power of collaboration. Time and again, we’ve seen first-hand that when diverse groups sit down at the table together, we’re able to harness our collective expertise and experience to find solutions that work for everyone.
And we’re not the only ones who think collaboration is a powerful tool. Several states in the Midwest currently convene collaborative groups to promote energy efficiency.
On July 12, Lincoln Nebraska Mayor Chris Beutler released a draft environmental plan highlighting opportunities for the city and residents to meet their sustainability goals. Building on the city’s 2009 Cleaner Greener Lincoln Initiative, this new action plan outlines the city’s progress in five categories—Energy, Land Use, Transportation, Waste and Water – and recommends strategies to make Lincoln a leader in environmental stewardship.
On March 22, 2017, the Illinois Commerce Commission passed a resolution initiating the NextGrid Utility of the Future Study. NextGrid will be an 18-month collaborative process to explore the ways in which alternative utility regulatory models, advances in technology, and consumer preferences and engagement can shape the grid of the future. This initiative will build upon the 2011 Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, the Illinois Statewide Smart Grid Collaborative and the recent Future Energy Jobs Act.