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.
After nearly three years of policy development and a year of debate and negotiation, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (SB 2408) and Governor Pritzker signed it into law on September 15. This nearly 1,000-page bill sets Illinois on a pathway toward power sector decarbonization by 2045, creates equitable clean energy workforce development pathways and expands state commitments to energy efficiency, renewable energy and electric vehicles.
As awareness and usage of electric vehicles (EVs) grows across the U.S., Minnesota has taken a strong stance towards becoming an EV leader in the Midwest. With the recent adoption of its low-emission vehicle (LEV) and zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) standards, Minnesota is increasing access to EV options for purchase as well as attempting to reduce transportation emissions – its highest-emitting sector.
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.