A Tale of Two Governors

rick snyder and mark dayton

Democratic Governor Dayton of Minnesota and Republican Governor Snyder of Michigan hail from opposite sides of the aisle; yet, in a time of political polarization, these two governors found a common cause: energy efficiency. Not only have they used their positions to advance energy efficiency, but they did do in states with Republican supermajorities in both state legislative chambers. As governors they reduced energy waste and shaped their states’ energy policies, creating new jobs and setting their constituents up for promising clean energy futures.  

Energy Efficiency’s Bipartisan Appeal

Most Republican and Democratic leaders agree that energy efficiency is the lowest-cost resource that can be used to meet our nation’s energy goals. Furthermore, the huge economic opportunity efficiency offers and the high-quality jobs it creates are popular across the political spectrum. A recent survey found that 94% of Midwestern voters place “energy efficiency upgrades” as the most important policy objective for expanding their state’s commitment to clean energy.

It should come as no surprise that leaders from both sides of the aisle would support energy efficiency. Governors Dayton and Snyder have both acted as leaders on the issue and have completed great work during their time in office.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton  

Minnesota has historically been a leader in energy efficiency, not only in the Midwest, but across the nation. Governor Dayton continued this and championed the issue by supporting legislation and issuing executive orders that advanced energy efficiency.

In 2017, Governor Dayton signed Executive Order 17-12, which improved energy efficiency, reduced water usage and enhanced sustainable purchasing processes for state agencies. Another 2017 executive order directed state agencies to reduce their fleet fossil fuel consumption and their building energy use by 30% within the next decade. The governor also issued Executive Order 11-12, which focused on job creation and energy efficiency in buildings. It included requirements for state-owned buildings to benchmark their energy consumption and create goals for reducing energy consumption through energy efficiency improvements. Governor Dayton also issued a variety of proclamations like declaring a Clean Energy Business Day and a Weatherization Day.

Aside from executive orders and proclamations, Governor Dayton promoted energy efficiency in the state by signing legislation and ensuring that new bills did not negatively impact energy efficiency policies and programs. In 2018, Governor Dayton signed legislation that made modifications to energy improvement programs, reenacted  the residential property assessed clean energy program (R-PACE) after it was repealed in 2017 and expanded energy conservation loan use. In 2017, Governor Dayton vetoed SF 1937, an omnibus spending bill, over concerns that it would create unnecessary delays when improving the residential energy code. Prior to the 2017 veto, Governor Dayton signed new energy residential and commercial energy code in 2015 and defended it from legal challenges.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

Republican Governor Rick Snyder has been a national and regional leader for supporting energy efficiency. As a result of his leadership and his efforts to work collaboratively with the state legislature, Michigan’s energy efficiency industry is growing with increased investment, and the state is well positioned for the clean energy future. Governor Snyder also placed a strong emphasis on reducing energy waste by guiding the overhaul of Michigan’s energy laws and reducing energy consumption in state buildings.

In 2016, Governor Snyder led the bipartisan process and signed landmark energy legislation known as the “Clean, Renewables, and Efficiency Energy Act.” This act encourages continued energy waste reduction efforts and sets a goal of meeting at least 35% of the state’s electric needs by 2025 through a combination of energy waste reduction and renewable energy.

Prior the 2016 law, Governor Snyder did two special addresses on energy policy and the environment; one in 2012 and a second one in 2015. After his first energy and environment message, he called for a one-year study and directed the Michigan Public Service Commission and State Energy Office to host seven public forums and issued four reports on the states’ clean energy future. He also supported the Governor’s Annual Energy Excellence awards, which highlights two Michigan projects as examples of best practices in energy waste reduction across the state.

Celebrating the Past and Looking to the Future

With seven new governors coming into office, it is important to highlight the progress that was made on energy efficiency across the Midwest. 2019 brings new opportunities to build relationships, share lessons learned and promote the benefits of energy efficiency and the larger clean energy economy. MEEA will continue to promote the leadership of past administrations in 2019 and beyond.   

“Reducing waste, increasing our reliance on renewable energy, and using less energy overall, is saving money and contributing to the betterment of our environment,” Dayton said of a 2017 sustainability report. “Still there is more work to do, and much more to gain by building upon these improvements across the state government.”

We hope that Minnesota Governor Tim Walz will continue to value energy efficiency and continue to support and advance through policies and programs that will save money and improve the environment.

“We have made energy waste reduction a priority in Michigan and, as a result, our employers and residents have saved billions of dollars over the past decade,” said Snyder. “We’ve improved our state energy efficiency ranking by six places, to 11th in the country, and customers save over $4 for every dollar spent by a utility on energy waste reduction programs.”

“Hard work and a team effort by employers, utilities, municipalities, and many others have made it possible to meet the state’s energy needs through innovative approaches,” continued Gov. Snyder. “The alternative energy sector in Michigan is anticipated to grow 7.1 percent this decade. Our success proves to leaders around the region that reducing energy waste can save money, protect the environment, and create jobs.”

As Michigan Governor Whitmer comes into office, it will be important for her administration to continue the hard work and team effort to ensure Michigan remains a leader across the nation on energy efficiency.

We thank Governors Dayton and Snyder for their service and look forward to partnering with their successors and the rest of the Midwest’s new governors to advance energy efficiency.