Energy Efficiency & Load Management

We offer customers education about proven energy-efficient technology options, rate information to help them calculate their operating costs, and energy-efficiency programs to meet their goals and needs. In 2019 we invested approximately $9.8 million in conservation programs. We pursued aggressive energy-conservation goals through a portfolio of programs in Minnesota and South Dakota.

Record-Setting Year

In 2019 we partnered with customers to save 82.4 million kWh of energy, a record-high for our company.


Minnesota Conservation Improvement Program

Our Minnesota Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) offers customers the opportunity to save energy and money. Our current conservation plan, approved in 2016, established a portfolio of programs and an energy-savings goal of 1.7 percent of retail sales for 2017-2020. We file an annual update with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. As a result of our 2019 accomplishments, we will receive a financial incentive of $2.7 million.

In 2019 we invested more than $9.1 million in CIP and returned more than $33.5 million in lifetime net benefits to customers. Energy savings reached 69.2 million annual kWh of energy and more than 28.5 MW of demand. For the year, that is 3.98 percent of our annual retail sales. At a lifetime cost of less than 1.8 cents per kWh conserved, our energy-efficiency programs continue to be a cost-effective resource for customers.

In 2020 we plan to file a new conservation plan for 2021-2023 to be reviewed by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

In addition to designing programs to meet conservation goals, we’re working to ensure savings estimates are measurable and verifiable to meet stringent state program requirements. We highlight below some of the programs in our CIP portfolio, which includes more than 30 programs total.

LED Street Lighting

During 2019 we upgraded all company-owned street and area light fixtures in 20 Minnesota communities to light-emitting diode (LED) technology. We also upgraded approximately 2,000 additional company-owned fixtures across the rest of the communities we serve as these products reached end of life and required replacement. The projects were a continuation of similar efforts started in 2018. LED streetlight fixtures are more energy efficient, require less maintenance, and improve safety. In 2019 we installed 154 percent of our goal, or 6,000 LEDs, while spending just 79 percent of program budget. LED streetlighting retrofits resulted in an energy savings of 25,988,725 kWh (or about 26 MWh) and 3,800 kW of demand savings in 2019. Energy savings are equivalent to a reduction of 21,050.87 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

LED Holiday Light Giveaway

We partnered with local food shelves in Bemidji, Fergus Falls, Morris, and Crookston, Minnesota, to host an LED holiday light giveaway. Customers brought in a food-shelf donation and received five strings of LED holiday lights. We distributed approximately 7,500 strings of lights that will save approximately 330,000 kWh of energy, while raising a combined 1,750 pounds of food and more than $1,700 in monetary donations.

Home Transformer

Home Transformer uses audits to identify and correct energy loss and waste in single family and multifamily homes. Participants receive a free, onsite energy audit., including a detailed report with advice on steps to cost effectively reduce energy expenses. During the assessment visit, technicians install select energy-efficiency products such as LED bulbs, door sweeps, caulking, and weather stripping for windows and doors, pipe insulation, low-flow shower heads and faucets, as well as water temperature assessment and adjustment to provide immediate energy savings. We partnered with Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation, a local gas utility, and Center for Energy and Environment to serve two multifamily housing units. During 2019 the program served 55 single-family homes and two multifamily properties that included 73 rental units resulting in 277,000 kWh and 51.5 kW in energy and demand savings.

Integrated Building Design Plus

The Integrated Building Design Plus program brings architects, engineers, and energy experts together during the design phase to optimize the energy efficiency of new construction projects. The program uses energy modeling and comparison analysis of various heating, ventilation, and air conditioning applications, as well as other efficiency options. Participants receive design consultant services and are eligible for all applicable rebates available through the CIP program portfolio. In 2019 four project teams participated in the process, including the City of Bemidji First City Liquor building team. The Bemidji staff worked with Otter Tail Power Company and Wildan, a third-party consultant, to determine energy-efficient design. This project incorporated a geothermal heating and cooling system and refrigeration technologies, which with other rebates result in a simple payback of under six years.

Electric Vehicles

We've pursued projects and partnerships that support adoption of electric vehicles as the technology continues to evolve, offering a longer range. Expanding the network of chargers is a priority to make use of this technology feasible. We installed the first 50-kW direct current (DC) fast charger along a 200-mile major corridor of Interstate Highway 94 between Monticello and Moorhead, Minnesota. Located in Fergus Falls, the DC fast charger project was assisted with the partnership of Service Foods, which provided a location in the center of town, and Vinco Electric, which completed the installation. We’ve partnered with city officials and others to install level 2 charging stations in Jamestown and Wahpeton, North Dakota, and in Morris, Crookston, Bemidji, and Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

South Dakota Energy Efficiency Plan

Our South Dakota Energy Efficiency Plan (EEP) continues to encourage residential and business customers to use energy wisely. This conservation plan encourages businesses to install energy-efficient lighting, motors and drives, air-source and geothermal heat pumps, and custom efficiency improvements. The plan urges our customers to take advantage of our CoolSavings air-conditioning control program and offers incentives for installing energy-efficient lighting and air-source and geothermal heat pumps.

Results for 2019 show that we invested approximately $716,000, returning more than $8.1 million in lifetime net benefits for customers. Customer energy savings reached 13.2 million kWh, and more than 2.6 MW of demand savings, which was respectively 140% and 127% of our 2019 EEP goals.

Regulatory requirements included completing an energy-efficiency program plan that was filed and approved in 2016. The plan established a program portfolio and goals for 2017-2019, and was extended through 2020. The report summarizing 2019 accomplishments is set to be filed in 2020, along with a new energy-efficiency plan for 2021-2023 to be reviewed by the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.

North Dakota Energy Conservation

We continue to voluntarily offer demand-response programs and incentives to our North Dakota customers. There is currently no policy in place in North Dakota to support utility energy efficiency program expenditures. As opportunities present we engage in discussions related to the development of efficiency programs for our North Dakota customers.

Load Management

High customer participation in our direct load-control rates is the foundation of our success in load management. With one-third of our customers partnering with us in load management, we’re able to curtail a portion of their electrical load during periods of high demand, high energy prices, or system maintenance. Participating customers save on their energy bills with rates that are less than our standard electric rates.

We accredited with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO) a portion of our direct load-control capacity, making it available on a limited basis during MISO system peaks. The amount accredited varies monthly and is set as 90 MW in January, February, and December; 55 MW in March, April, and November; 25 MW in October; 18 MW in June, July, August, and September; and 15 MW in May. Accrediting a portion of the demand resources is a step to further enhance regional transmission reliability.

Our Resource Plan calls for demand-side management resources to increase annually to reach approximately 8 MW of additional summer-season peak-load-reduction capability through 2031. To achieve this, during 2019 we connected an additional 11.7 MW of controlled winter-season load and 3.4 MW of controlled summer-season load.