With cold temps come higher utility bills. Thanks to Minnesota law, utilities offer several assistance programs to help keep Minnesota families warm all winter no matter their financial situation. If you or someone you know has trouble paying their heating bill, please use these great programs to ensure everyone can stay warm throughout winter.
The Cold Weather Rule (CWR) is around to help families whose budget cannot support high heating bills. The Cold Weather Rule protects residents from having their heat shut off due to a failure to pay from October 15th through April 15th. To sign up you must contact your utility and establish a monthly payment plan.
Energy Assistance Program (EAP) helps qualified customers by giving them money to help pay their heating bill. This program is available to both renters and homeowners. Funding is limited so applicants should sign up ASAP.
Weatherization Assistance Program helps make homes more energy efficient, permanently reducing the home’s energy bills. Weatherization project assistance can range from participation education to heating system testing to wall insulation.
Low Interest Energy Financing is offered by CEE. CEE provides low interest financing for energy improvements for homeowners in Minnesota. As a nontraditional lender, CEE provides competitive rates, technical assistance, and a wide range of financing that can be tailored to fit your budget.
This summer I was approached by Nathaniel, a sophomore at Southwest High School in Minneapolis, about participating in a sustainability fair he was organizing. I was impressed that Nathaniel took time out of his short summer to organize a sustainability fair on his own. Now that is some dedication to sustainability!
One of the goals Nathaniel had for the fair was to beat South High School (a big rival) on the Energy Challenge standings. As a proud Southwest grad I was especially enthusiastic about this! At the time, Southwest had 23 members while South had 207. Together we agreed on a goal of 200 new students pledging to reduce their energy use, which was a pretty large goal that I assumed would take a couple months to achieve.
At the fair, which took place on a Friday during both lunch periods, students had a chance to learn about opportunities to become involved in environmental initiatives and pledge to reduce their energy use with the Energy Challenge. Student volunteers walked around with clip boards and asked other students to sign up for the Challenge. Nathaniel also arranged to have four other organizations to exhibit along with the Energy Challenge.
By the end of the fair more than 200 students (223 to be exact) had pledged to reduce their energy use! The original goal was reached in just a couple of lunch periods and Southwest now has 249 members pledging to reduce their CO2 emissions by 1,374,152 lbs and are saving $41,255 annually. With a little positive social pressure and a lot of dedication Nathaniel and the other volunteers were able to reach their goal and engage students in environmental conservation!
The Minnesota Energy Challenge reached a new milestone! Over the past 7 years 29,899 members have now pledged to reduce their energy costs by $13,001,241 annually! This number shows the power we have as individuals to contribute to the energy conserved in Minnesota, and illustrates that when we all do our part in small ways we can make a big impact.
How many energy efficiency products can $13,001,241 buy?
- 32,500 Energy Star certified LED 60 watt bulbs
- 18,200,000 feet of weatherstripping
- Attic insulation for 8,667 Homes
- 4,333 high efficiency furnaces
What are you doing with your energy efficiency savings?
It’s here again-October is National Energy Awareness Month!
“Years from now, our children may wonder if we did all we could to leave a safe, clean, and stable world for them to inherit. If we keep our eyes on the long arc of our future and commit to doing what this moment demands, the answer will be yes…I call upon the citizens of the United States to recognize this month by working together to achieve greater energy security, a more robust economy, and a healthier environment for our children.” – President Barack Obama
This is a pretty large scale request from the President. So how can we, as individuals, help “achieve greater energy security, more robust economy and healthier environment for our children”? Become a member of the Minnesota Energy Challenge! From there you can calculate your CO2 footprint, learn how to participate in energy conservation actions, reduce your homes energy bill, and help others in your community reduce their energy use. All of these help save money, and reduce your CO2 footprint to help better the environment!
Happy Energy Awareness Month!
As renters we have a lot less opportunity to participate in the big bang for your buck actions such as insulation and a new heating system. This may make it feel like renters have less impact, but as the Energy Challenge shows, the little actions make a difference too!
Flip the Switch: Don’t just turn off the lights, make sure your electronics are completely off. Turn off the power on the power strip- or unplug the electronic from the wall. Savings of 288 lbs CO2/ $14 a yr.
Wash em Cold: 90% of your washing machine’s energy use is used to heat the water. Save on electricity and extend the life of your clothes by washing them in cold water. Savings of 385 lbs CO2/ $35 a yr.
Ditch the Car: Combine trips, walk, or bike to get exercise and energy savings. Savings of 458 lbs CO2/ $87 a yr.
Deck the Halls with LEDs: Purchase LED holiday lights. They can last up to 40 holiday seasons and use 80% less energy to run. Savings of 600 lbs CO2/ $30 a yr.
Spread the Word: Another great way to save electricity is to spread the word. Tell your friends and family what they can do. A little education and social pressure have a positive influence on energy conservation actions.
These actions add up to a savings of 1,731 lbs CO2 and $166 a year! How’s that for making a difference!
More actions renters can do!
CERTs seeks to provide seed grants to support the labor costs for clean energy projects that spur community development in Minnesota. Project proposals should be for a community-based energy efficiency or renewable energy project that also provides a forum for community education about energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and their economic, ecological, and community benefits.
“Since 2006, CERTs has awarded more than $790,000 to over 189 projects,” said Lissa Pawlisch, Clean Energy Resource Teams Director. “Those projects ranged from energy efficiency for city-owned buildings to solar power for schools, from on-farm wind power to renewably-heated greenhouses, and much more.” Take a look at some past projects, and case studies.
CERTs offers many tools and resources to help you plan your project, so get started today! Proposals must be submitted no later than 4:00pm on Friday, October 18th, 2013. Learn more and apply.
Funding for these projects is provided through the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources.
American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) recently put together an energy efficiency scorecard of the 34 largest U.S. cities. Minneapolis received a score of 55 which puts us 8th for energy efficiency programs. The scorecard shows that we are the best city in the Midwest and are doing fairly well on all of the measures. No city was perfect, the highest ranked city, Boston, received a score of 76.75 out of 100. The scorecard highlights that we all have to keep working on improving energy efficiency programs in our cities.
On the infographic below you can see scores in specific areas such as buildings, transportation and community (click it to be taken to the interactive website). How can you (yes you!) help improve Minneapolis’ score? One way is to support the programs we already have in place. Schedule a home energy visit or use our transportation system. When programs have high demand the more likely the program will improve and expand. Whatever the ranking -Minneapolis is always number 1 in my mind!