Minnesota's State Energy Program (SEP), coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources, has historically promoted energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy to Minnesota consumers, businesses and policymakers. For its past, SEP is noted for its targeted efforts in making Minnesota a leader in the delivery of E85, advancing building codes, and increasing locally owned wind energy production.
More recently, SEP's plan has expanded to support a broader range of projects in areas such as:
commercial and industrial energy efficiency
energy-efficiency retrofits of government buildings
residential energy efficiency
renewable energy rebates and grants
utility conservation improvement programs
For instance, in the commercial and industrial market, SEP provides energy-efficiency grants, loans and shared-savings agreements; renewable energy feasibility grants; and emerging renewable energy industries grants. Over a three-year period ending March 31, 2012, funds of nearly $17 million will provide financing, technical assistance and shared-savings agreements to commercial, industrial and nonprofit entities. The estimated energy savings for that period is 117,800 MBtus, with about 256 jobs directly created.
The improvement project at St. John's Hospital in Maplewood, Minn., is one of several commercial energy-efficiency efforts funded by Minnesota's SEP. St. John's received a $300,000 grant for a $1 million effort to upgrade its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. A complete building automation system upgrade and retro-commissioning was performed from July 2010 to early 2011. An estimated annual energy savings of 20 percent (valued at $260,000) is projected.
SEP's work in the residential energy efficiency area has been exemplary. To ensure that Minnesota's residential buildings continue to improve in energy performance, SEP has developed several programs to provide financing and technical assistance for energy-efficiency improvements such as insulation and air sealing, lighting, HVAC and window and door modifications. Rebates totaling nearly $14 million have been provided for a three-year period ending March 31, 2012. One of the most successful initiatives was the Energy Saver Rebate Program, which provided an average $3,100 rebate to 2,200 Minnesota homeowners. More than $24 million in energy-saving improvements were made, spurred by nearly $7 million in Energy Saver rebates. Homeowners qualified for the rebate by securing a Fix-Up Fund loan from Minnesota Housing's participating lending partners. More than 65,000 labor hours were generated by the work.
The renewable energy rebate and grant area has also achieved recent measurable success. SEP has been a catalyst for enhancing clean energy alternatives via rebates to homeowners and small businesses and through grants to schools and local governments. SEP funds are providing rebates of about $5 million for small-scale solar, wind and ground-source heat pump installations. For instance, about $2.5 million in rebates for solar photovoltaic installations were provided in 2010, an incentive that contributed to a record 228 new PV systems (totaling 1.8 megawatts), tripling the state record of 76 set in 2009.
In the near future, SEP will commit even more resources to public building energy-efficiency retrofits. Currently, about $4 million in cost-share grants are committed to public school districts and local government units to install renewable energy, combined heat and power, and ground-source heat pump systems. In addition, SEP is providing grant and/or loan financing of about $9 million to state and local units of government to make energy-efficiency improvements to existing buildings and energy-using facilities. The majority of that money is going to the Public Building Enhanced Energy Efficiency Program (PBEEEP), in which more than 55 state government sites have enrolled for recommissioning and retrofits.
Public building retrofits and recommissioning, clean energy financing, and energy-saving performance contracting are priorities for the future. An April 2011 executive order from Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton calls for job creation through energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for Minnesota’s public buildings.