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The Time Has Come to Pursue Beneficial Electrification and the ECO Act

Darrick Moe
Darrick Moe is the President & CEO of Minnesota Rural Electric Association, which serves 50 rural electric cooperatives, providing safety support, education and training, and political and policy leadership

We all want to ensure a clean environment for our kids and grandkids; embracing the concept of beneficial electrification can help us get there.

Innovations in energy technologies are creating new ways to use electricity and move away from fossil fuels like propane, natural gas and gasoline. Beneficial electrification supports the use of more all-electric appliances and equipment, such as electric heat pumps and electric vehicles, and provides users with clean and efficient products. Widespread beneficial electrification reduces greenhouse gas emissions and fosters a more robust and resilient electrical grid. Minnesota’s electric cooperatives are therefore seeking to modernize Minnesota’s statutes on energy conservation to promote beneficial electrification. 

Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program (CIP), most recently modified in 2007, includes conservation goals for all electric utilities. Each utility must reduce their electricity sales by at least 1.5% every year and spend at least 1.5% of their revenue on conservation measures. I am pleased Minnesota’s electric cooperatives consistently meet or exceed their CIP goals. 

More than a decade later, the electric industry is the only segment of the economy to exceed its carbon reduction goals. The generation resources of Dakota Electric’s power supplier, Great River Energy, are rapidly becoming cleaner and will be 95% carbon free within a few years. CIP needs to be modified to support the technological advancements that have positive environmental impacts. To modernize the program, Minnesota’s electric cooperatives have worked with legislators to draft the Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act. 

The ECO Act emphasizes total energy efficiency across the energy, industrial, agriculture and public sectors, rather than focusing on reducing electricity use. Specifically, the energy-reduction goal will remain at 1.5% annually, but a portion can be achieved with beneficial electrification programs. For example, Dakota Electric was the first electric utility in the state to collaborate with Schmitty & Sons and Great River Energy to launch a beneficial electrification program in Lakeville — an all-electric school bus. This type of innovative solution is what the bill aims to unlock across the state. 

Minnesota’s electric cooperatives support the ECO Act because it promotes long-term, sustainable benefits and provides flexibility to count electric vehicles and other innovative electric technologies. 

The benefits of widespread electrification grow as our electricity generation becomes cleaner. Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, the electric grid becomes more resilient, and innovative clean technologies are supported. The time has come to support beneficial electrification and the ECO Act.