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ECO update seeks to ease fuel switching, electrification efforts

In 2021, the Energy Conservation and Optimization Act was signed into law. Created in consultation with the state’s public utilities, it updated the state’s Conservation Improvement Program, altering the state’s energy savings goals and setting out the means to achieve them through regulations and customer incentives.

Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids) told the House Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee Tuesday that utilities and other stakeholders have alerted him that the act could use some “tweaks, refinements and slight changes.” So he’s sponsoring HF4574.

Among other things, the bill would streamline the process of switching fuel sources, allow investor-owned electric utilities to earn an extra financial incentive for electrification measures, and create some exemptions in efficiency requirements for such large utility customers as data mining facilities.

The committee laid the bill over, as amended, for possible inclusion in a larger committee bill.

Michelle Gransee, the Commerce Department’s deputy commissioner of energy resources, endorses the proposal.

“This bill provides necessary adjustments by modifying the efficient fuel-switching criteria, removing the efficient fuel-switching spending cap, and allowing for an electric investor-owned utility the efficient fuel-switching incentive,” she said.

Speaking against the bill was Dave Wager, executive director of the Minnesota Propane Association, who expressed concern that the state’s move toward electrification as part of its goals to have carbon-free energy sources by 2040 would result in “too much reliance on one form of energy.”

Rep. Shane Mekeland (R-Clear Lake) agreed, taking issue with the move toward electrification in general and citing the amount of power needed for data mining facilities being proposed in the state.

“If we don’t have an all-of-the-above approach to make sure that homes are heated in the winter, we are going to be setting ourselves up for a catastrophe,” Mekeland said.

The committee chair, Rep. Patty Acomb (DFL-Minnetonka), said the move toward electrification and the rise of data mining facilities will continue to be a topic of committee discussion.

“Data mining is a place where we need to focus our energy, no pun intended.”

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