Over the past 15 years, utility-run energy efficiency programming has produced significant energy savings, customer cost savings and a host of system-wide and societal benefits throughout the Midwest. Unfortunately, these benefits are not fully understood or recognized by many state legislators and other policymakers. As a result, MEEA and other energy efficiency industry experts must recurringly defend EE policies from those who misunderstand how efficiency is funded, its value and impact for utility customers and its widespread benefits within individual states and throughout the region.
MEEA’s policy team has spent 2019 traveling throughout the Midwest to meet with state legislators, regulators and policymakers. MEEA serves as the region’s trusted source on energy efficiency and promotes how states can maximize energy savings pursuant to their specific policies. We share regional best practices and research with governors’ administrations, legislators and regulatory bodies as they develop energy plans, policy priorities or other state and local policy initiatives. The 2018 state election results presented ample opportunity for MEEA to act as a positive, nonpartisan voice for energy efficiency.
The 2018 midterm elections brought significant voter participation, with turnout breaking levels not seen since the 1960s. Nationally, this enthusiasm shifted power in the U.S. House of Representatives back to the Democrats, while Republicans increased their control of the U.S. Senate. A total of nine House seats in the Midwest flipped to Democratic-control—in addition to two seats in Minnesota changing from Democratic to Republican.
At a recent conference in Milwaukee hosted by M-WERC, the opportunities for reducing energy consumption at small- and medium-sized manufacturing facilities were touted repeatedly: Cost savings, productivity increases, improved worker safety and plant conditions, extended equipment lifetimes, corporate marketing benefits – the list goes on.
Property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing is off and running in the Midwest. PACE enables homeowners and commercial building owners to finance energy efficiency improvements through a special assessment on their property that is paid back through their tax bill. To date, there are 15 active PACE programs in the MEEA footprint. PACE-enabling legislation exists in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio and Nebraska, and legislation in Illinois has passed both state legislative houses and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
Despite holding several meetings over the last eight months about the proposed 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)/ASHRAE Standard 90.1 -2013 for commercial buildings, the Wisconsin Commercial Building Code Council (CBCC) made several unannounced changes to the proposed rule at their final meeting on November 16 that will result in reduced energy efficiency.
Over the last year, MEEA has participated in the Industrial Energy Efficiency Working Group coordinated by M-WERC, or the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium, a MEEA Member. Headquartered in Milwaukee, M-WERC is a unique thought leader, catalyst and incubator focused on the growth and economic competitiveness of the energy, power and control industry cluster across the Midwest. To guide this work, M-WERC develops Industry Roadmaps that pinpoint specific barriers to economic development in key areas.