What is small, little-known, and has helped save Minnesota taxpayers $6 billion?

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When most people hear the words ‘energy efficiency’ they might think of swapping out their light bulbs, or purchasing low-flow showerheads, little things they can do around their home or office to help lower their electricity bill.

CEEM, in partnership with the Center for Energy and the Environment (CEE) sought to help educate this traditional viewpoint recently at a tour we hosted with Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) at Cedar Creek Energy in Coon Rapids.

Cedar Creek Energy is an 11-year-old company that began operations at the beginning of some of our state’s darkest economic times, when many were unwilling to take big risks. The company has grown into a successful business employing some 30 workers with an emphasis on efficient lighting upgrades as well as solar installations.

The purpose of this visit was to share information with Sen. Hoffman about the impactful energy policy called the Conservation Improvement Program or CIP. This program is hailed as one of the most successful energy policies in our state’s history. From 2008 to 2013, CIP yielded about four dollars in additional benefits for each dollar invested, all while upping productivity at the same time.

In fact, just in Sen. Hoffman’s Senate District 36, which encompasses Brooklyn Park, Champlin and Coon Rapids, the program helps save on average $800,000 per year. That’s the energy savings equivalent to 19 football fields of solar.

CIP works as a rebate program facilitated by our state’s utilities – like Xcel Energy, through the work provided by efficiency installers like Cedar Creek Energy. The savings are passed on to the installer’s customers – helping small businesses across the state make energy efficiency improvements – like lighting, heating and air conditioning. These improvements ALWAYS mean significant energy savings for the businesses, and it means jobs and a paycheck for the installers.

During the chat, Cedar Creek Energy also shared some pretty eye-opening factoids about just how big the energy efficiency business is in Minnesota. Like the fact that 58 percent of total energy consumed in Minnesota is lost through inefficiencies, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Companies like Cedar Creek Energy are helping to capture energy previously lost and put it to good use. Combining all of these efforts taking place across our state makes a big difference. In fact, the resources provided by energy efficiency account for an incredible 14 percent of our state’s power portfolio. This means big savings, because we don’t have to spend money producing that additional power, this has helped Minnesota taxpayers save an incredible $6 billion over the last 20 years.

All of that business is adding up. According to the recently unveiled 2018 Clean Jobs Midwest Report, a full three-quarters of Minnesota’s clean energy workforce is employed by energy efficiency companies. And that sector has continued to enjoy growth each of the last three years.

We enjoy sharing these facts and figures with lawmakers, because it’s critical that programs like CIP continue to receive support and funding each budget cycle. Common sense is good business. It’s cheaper to save energy (1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour) than buy energy (8 cents per kilowatt-hour). That’s our message, and we’ll continue to spend the fall of 2018 sharing this story with Minnesota lawmakers.