Unless you’re an insider, you probably have no idea how many electric utility companies there are in Minnesota. You may not even know that not all utility companies are the same. Here’s a rundown, plus how they’re progressing toward meeting their energy-efficiency goals.
Currently, Minnesota has 45 cooperative utilities and 125 municipal electric utilities spread across the state, in addition to bigger power companies like Xcel Energy or Minnesota Power. Cooperatives and municipal utilities are often quite small—Minnesota’s smallest serves 61 customers in Shelly.
Cooperatives and municipal utilities are managed differently than bigger utilities. For example, Xcel is investor-owned, meaning it exists to make a profit for shareholders. Cooperative utilities, on the other hand, are publicly owned and democratically controlled by members who have direct economic interests. Municipal utilities are owned and operated by a local city or government, and essentially, local taxpayers.
This local focus is especially important when it comes to energy efficiency. All 170 municipal and cooperative utilities recently filed data with the Department of Commerce about their progress toward meeting the state’s 1.5% energy efficiency savings goal. Efficiency programs help families and businesses across the state by lowering their energy bills. This means cooperative and municipal utilities should have a clear motivation to offer energy efficiency programs to local customers—they’re helping friends and neighbors save money.
Recently, Fresh Energy, the Izaak Walton League of America, and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy analyzed the filings and submitted comments on cooperative and municipal utilities’ progress toward meeting the 1.5 percent goal. Some utilities are doing a great job of serving their local members and customers by meeting or exceeding the 1.5 percent goal; others are making good progress.
Unfortunately, some cooperative and municipal utilities aren’t making any progress, ignoring a huge opportunity to save energy and money for their members and customers. (You can see the full list and how they’re doing here.) Going forward, we hope these utilities begin to recognize the many benefits of energy efficiency, work with the cooperative and municipal utilities that already offer innovative, money-saving programs, and decide to offer similar programs to their own customers and members.