Others’ Opinion: Conserving proves to save big bucks

Published 10:14 am Thursday, November 5, 2015

Mankato Free Press

Energy conservation always has made economic sense. The less energy you use, the less you have to pay for. That’s why grandpas through the ages have ordered children to turn off the lights when they leave the room.

Now a state program designed around that concept has proof that it’s saving big bucks.

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Minnesota’s Conservation Improvement Program generates at least $4 in benefits for every dollar invested, according to an analysis released last week by the Minnesota Commerce Department. The program, funded and administered by more than 180 utilities, helps households and businesses reduce consumption of electricity and natural gas.

The program helps customers help themselves. The utilities offer residents energy audits and incentives for energy-related improvements, including rebates for high-efficiency lighting and appliances such as furnaces, air conditioners and water heaters, as well as insulation and air sealing.

For business customers, rebates are offered for such things as high-efficiency boilers and lighting control systems. The utilities also provide design assistance for energy-efficient buildings and technical assistance to reduce the energy intensity of manufacturing processes, the commerce department said.

These incentives help get energy customers on track to conserving and thinking about future methods to save energy and money. Even if that simply means shopping for an Energy Star appliance the next time one needs replacing, it’s another step toward reducing energy use.

Today all kinds of energy users, from convents to cities, are thinking of ways to hop on the solar bandwagon. It’s good to see solar making a resurgence in popularity after taking such a hit decades ago.

Minnesota, along with other states, is demanding more energy be from cleaner resources for a reason. Global warming is everyone’s problem. But that aside, saving energy and using cleaner sources makes good economic sense. An economic impact assessment of Minnesota’s conservation program found a total net benefit of more than $5.9 billion in new economic output and nearly 55,000 job years (with a job year equaling one job for one year), the commerce department said.

The department gets excited too about the possibility of all those energy savings being plugged into the economy as people buy other goods instead. So remember that on your walk to the store to buy weather stripping and window plastic to prepare for the heating season ahead.

And as Grandpa says, don’t forget to turn off the lights on your way out.