Promoting Energy Conservation
The most inexpensive source of new electricity is energy conservation. Using the electricity we already generate more wisely can save money and eliminate the need to build new polluting sources of energy. Some League members are taking matters into their own hands and getting serious about personal conservation.
We continue to work with governments and electric utilities to promote the wiser use of energy. Many states have enjoyed a number of years of quiet success with utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs. These programs require utilities to spend a certain percentage of their gross operating revenues on efficiency programs for their customers. These programs provide a solid foundation, but we believe that efficiency programs must go further and must curb our increasing demand for electricity if we want to meet our climate goals. In 2007, we helped pass a policy in Minnesota that requires electric and natural gas utilities to go beyond their spending targets and also to increase their conservation goals. '
Incentivize Utility Energy Conservation
Reducing energy waste by improving the efficiency of our buildings and vehicles and appliances is one of the largest sources of clean energy. Climate protection goals will be met in part by unleashing this huge untapped potential for energy efficiency. New approaches are being explored to accelerate energy efficiency gains. At present, electric and gas utilities make more profit as sales of their energy increases. These same utilities are charged with delivering energy efficiency programs for customers that will reduce energy consumption. Changing how utilities earn profits by breaking the link between utility sales and earnings, also known as "decoupling," is being tested in some states, including Minnesota.
Electric Utility Planning
The League has been involved in major utility long-range planning projects in Minnesota. These long range plans are a critical place where utilities lay out their plans for the next 20 years and state what assumptions they used to determine if they need to build new power plants and, if so, what type of plants they would build (i.e. coal or wind). The League has been a leader in reviewing utility resource plans in Minnesota and has pushed for inclusion of global warming risks, the external cost of environmental degradation, and appropriate transmission planning for wind as utilities plan for the future. Of particular importance to League members are electric utility goals for saving energy through conservation programs, cleaning up the electric generation sector through power plant modernization, and expanding the use of clean energy.
Energy Efficiency at Home
The Energy Star Program is a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to provide consumers with a wealth of information on how to reduce the use of electricity with energy efficient products and practices.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Web site offers practical tips on conducting a home energy audit, including a do-it-yourself checklist and tips on hiring a professional energy auditor. An assessment of your home's current energy use is the first step in evaluating what you can do to make your home more energy efficient.