Last week, the Minnesota legislature passed a major update to the state’s energy efficiency policy framework. The Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act passed both the House and Senate after a conference committee reached a compromise on the remaining areas of disagreement between the two chambers. The Act was signed by Governor Walz on May 25th.
On March 31st, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed HB 128 into law, formally enacting a partial HB 6 repeal bill that eliminates certain provisions of the law but does nothing to revive statewide utility energy efficiency programs.
As we start 2021, it's time to unpack the energy efficiency implications from the November 2020 elections for our region. The election outcomes tell a story of two political realities for Midwesterners – Democrats decisively sweep at the federal level and Republicans strengthen their hold throughout the predominately conservative Midwest. While we can expect clean energy policy prioritization nationally, the majority of the Midwest will see it defined through executive action by Democratic governors and much less debate and action in most state legislatures. But we know that any lasting energy policy will require bipartisan cooperation for passage and successful implementation.
MEEA’s mission to support and advance energy efficiency across the Midwest typically takes shape as promoting supportive policies and the positive impact of EE like new jobs, energy savings, economic impacts and environmental benefits. From time to time, though, the Midwest experiences challenges to energy efficiency. New polices in Ohio have become the greatest barrier to energy efficiency in the Midwest right now, essentially ending all EE programs on December 31, 2020. How did we get here when energy efficiency has continuously been recognized for both economic and environmental benefits?
In the 36 years since the California Standard Practice Manual (CaSPM) was first released, cost-effectiveness testing has spread across the country following the growth of utility customer-funded energy efficiency. The California tests have been adopted by utilities, consultants, regulatory commissions and legislators to determine whether an energy efficiency measure or program is worth pursuing and whether a completed program performed as expected. Fundamentally, a cost-effectiveness test measures the total benefits divided by the total costs, and passes if the ratio is greater than or equal to 1.0.
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.
After an extensive four-month debate, on July 23, 2019, the Ohio General Assembly passed H.B. 6, a nuclear subsidy bill which will essentially eliminate energy efficiency programs in the state. Governor DeWine signed the bill into law the same day.
Des Moines, Iowa joined the ranks of some of the most sustainability-conscious cities in the Midwest when the city council adopted a new benchmarking ordinance on June 3, 2019. The ordinance will require all city-owned buildings and privately-owned commercial and multifamily buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to report their energy and water usage to the city. Currently, large buildings in Des Moines account for 56% of greenhouse gas emissions, and this initiative will aid in the city’s goal of reducing their emissions 28% by 2025.
According to the Weather Channel, the Plains and Midwest states have had the most extreme and record-breaking weather of any region in 2019. From the polar vortex gripping the Midwest and setting at least 340 cold weather records in late January, to the deluge of snow in February, capped off by devastating flooding in March and two snowstorms in April, Midwesterners and the Midwest have had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them!
E4TheFuture interviewed various regional energy efficiency organizations (REEOs) about their reflections on the National Standard Practice Manual (NSPM). MEEA's Greg Ehrendreich spoke with E4TheFuture about the NSPM's uptake in the Midwest, and their conversation is excerpted below. To see responses from the other REEOs, read their full blog.