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Energy Efficiency

Minnesota accepts the better buildings challenge

President Obama and Secretary ChuOn Friday, Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman represented the State of Minnesota at the White House to discuss President Obama’s job creation and energy efficiency initiative, the Better Buildings Challenge. Rothman joined U.S. Department of Energy secretary Dr. Steven Chu, top White House energy officials, and more than 60 CEOs, mayors, energy leaders, and labor representatives from around the country to discuss how ongoing initiatives in states like Minnesota can help significantly reduce energy consumption in public and private buildings.

The Better Buildings Challenge is part of the Better Buildings Initiative launched in February by President Obama and is spearheaded by former President Clinton and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. This multi-state effort will support job creation by catalyzing private sector investment in commercial and industrial building energy upgrades, reducing energy costs for American businesses by an estimated $40 billion.

The Challenge is designed to create an estimated 50,000 American jobs—without any additional taxpayer money. The $4 billion of investment—half committed from the federal government and half from a coalition of corporations, labor unions, universities, and local governments—aims to upgrade buildings over the next two years, with a goal of improving the energy performance of 1.6 billion square feet of building space 20 percent by 2020.

“Minnesota is excited to contribute to this nationwide effort, helping lead the country in achieving aggressive and achievable energy savings goals,” said Commissioner Rothman in a press release. “Under Governor Dayton’s leadership, the work our state is already doing to reduce energy consumption in state-owned buildings, improve conservation efforts at electric and gas utilities, and conserve energy in private homes, businesses and industrial buildings will be instrumental in that effort. The State of Minnesota is proud to accept the President’s challenge—and we encourage other states to do the same.”

Senator Al Franken says President Obama’s initiative is right on the money. “Improving the energy efficiency of buildings all over Minnesota will save money, protect the environment, and create solid, well paying jobs in this tough economy.” said Senator Franken in a press release. ”Minnesota is the ideal state for this initiative because we have the leadership, the expertise, the workforce, and the manufacturing capacity to start retrofitting buildings immediately.”

As a Better Buildings Challenge partner, the State of Minnesota will work to achieve a 20 percent reduction in state energy consumption and boost energy savings and job creation across the state through several recent state-sponsored initiatives, many of which are administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Division of Energy Resources. Those commitments include the following:

  • The Guaranteed Energy Savings Program, initiated in April 2011 when Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton issued an executive order calling for state agencies to “adopt cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies” that will achieve at least an aggregate 20 percent reduction in energy use for state-owned buildings
  • Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program (CIP), which oversees the conservation improvement plans of each electric and gas utility in the state to help business and residential customers become more energy efficient and requires an energy savings goal of 1.5 percent from each participating electric and gas utility.
  • The Trillion BTU Energy Efficiency Improvement Program, an effort designed to reduce energy consumption by up to one trillion BTUs (the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit) a year, save businesses money, and sustain and create jobs. This program—a partnership of the Department of Energy, CIP, Xcel Energy, and the Saint Paul Port Authority—combines a revolving loan program created by the Port Authority and an Xcel Energy rebate to finance energy audits, engineering studies, and physical improvements to businesses.
  • The Public Building Enhanced Energy Efficiency Program, a $9 million endeavor providing loans or grants for state and local government units to make energy-efficiency improvements to existing buildings. Fifty-five government units are currently enrolled.
  • Back to Work Minnesota, launched in October 2011, is Senator Al Franken’s initiative aimed at identifying innovative financing methods that can spur energy efficiency retrofits of commercial and public buildings across the state. The initiative brings together local and national leaders from the public and private sectors to identify potential retrofit projects and unlock financing to implement those projects.

Photo: White House

Increasing building efficiency and saving businesses money? Minnesota's up to the challenge!

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