Minnesota recently improved to ninth in the 2017 ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, giving it a top-10 ranking in 10 of the last 11 years. That steady performance is supported by a long record of programs that incentivize homeowners to save energy, including utility programs, loan programs, and weatherization assistance for low-income families.
Utility rebates and incentives
Through the state's Conservation Improvement Program (CIP), Minnesota electric and natural gas utilities offer a variety of rebates and other incentives to help their customers make energy efficiency improvements. Each utility tailors specific programs offered to their residential and business customers. CIP helps Minnesota households and businesses use electricity and natural gas more efficiently — conserving energy, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and lessening the need for new utility infrastructure. Consumers should check directly with their utility to learn of rebates and other incentives.
Typical incentives for residential utility customers include:
- Discounted energy audits, where a trained energy consultant examines homes and offers specific advice on energy improvements.
- Rebates on high-efficiency heating, cooling, and water-heating systems; CFL and LED lighting; and low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators.
- Air-conditioner cycling programs, which allow the utility to manage its peak energy demand in return for discounted electric bills for participating customers.
Through CIP investments of $217 million, utility customers saved approximately 6.9 million MMBtu of energy in 2016, or an estimated $1.8 billion savings on their energy bills for the lifetime of the energy-saving measures.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce provides financial support to two loan programs that offer low-interest loans to owner-occupied single-family homeowners and multifamily residential property (1-4 dwellings) owners who invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy systems.
- Fix Up Loan Program. Administered by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, this program offers low-interest, unsecured loans up to $15,000 to owner-occupied single-family, duplex, triplex, or fourplex properties. In addition to the unsecured loan offering, the Fix Up Loan Program offers secured loans up to $50,000 for general home repairs, remodels, and energy- saving improvements.
- Home Energy Loan Program. Administered by the Center for Energy and Environment, this program offers loans up to $20,000 to homeowners of single-family homes or owners of 1-4 unit rental properties seeking to invest in energy efficiency improvement projects in existing properties.
Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
WAP provides free home energy upgrades to income-eligible homeowners and renters to help save energy and make sure their homes are healthy and safe. In the past program year (July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017), WAP served 1,782 low-income households and more than 4,000 individuals.
WAP recipients receive a free home energy assessment to determine which energy efficiency improvements are needed. Potential energy upgrades include:
- Exterior wall and attic insulation
- Air leakage reduction
- Furnace, boiler, and water heater repair or replacement
- Ideas to help reduce a home’s energy use, such as using a programmable thermostat
Weatherization services can help decrease annual energy costs by up to 30 percent.
Comprehensive information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency is available at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE). For more on Minnesota programs to save energy and money, visit the Minnesota Department of Commerce website.