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 2018 we invested approximately $9.5 million in conservation programs. We pursued aggressive energy-conservation goals through a portfolio of programs in Minnesota and South Dakota.

Record-Setting Year

In 2018 we partnered with customers to save 78.6 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 triennial filing, last approved in 2016, established a portfolio of programs and an energy-savings goal of 1.7% of retail sales for 2017-2019. We file an annual update with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. In 2018 we filed our 2017 accomplishments, which resulted in a financial incentive of $2.9 million.

In 2018 we invested more than $9 million in CIP and returned more than $35 million in lifetime net benefits to customers. Energy savings reached a record-breaking high for us at 73.3 million annual kWh of energy and more than 28.1 MW of demand. For the year, that is 4.21% of our annual retail sales. At a lifetime cost of less than 1.2 cents per kWh conserved, our energy-efficiency programs continue to be a cost-effective resource for customers.

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 newer programs in our CIP portfolio, which includes more than 30 programs total.

LED Street Lighting

We've upgraded all company-owned street and area light fixtures in the Minnesota communities of Morris, Mahnomen, Bemidji, Pelican Rapids, Oslo, Wilton, Red Lake Falls, Milroy, and Audubon to light-emitting diode (LED) technology. We chose towns that already had converted city-owned street lighting fixtures to LED technology or expressed interest in having us do the same. LED street light fixtures are more energy efficient, require less maintenance, and improve safety.

LED Holiday Light Giveaway

We partnered with food shelves in Bemidji and Fergus Falls, 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 4,900 strings of lights that will save approximately 213,000 kWh of energy, while raising a combined 3,200 pounds of food and more than $1,200 in monetary donations.

Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats give users access to energy-use information. Tier III units are capable of analytics that offer additional savings, coaching, diagnostics, comparative information, and geofencing. We offer rebates based on tier level and the type of heating system. In 2018 the program rebated approximately 120 smart thermostats.

Commercial Direct Install Program

The new pilot Commercial Direct Install Program offers free energy assessments and installation of low-cost energy-efficiency measures for small and mid-sized commercial customers in targeted communities. Participants receive a short report that includes efficiency measures and energy-saving estimates. While onsite, the team installs LED lighting, vending machine controllers, faucet aerators and spray valves, and hot-water pipe insulation. During 2018, 237 customers in six communities participated, resulting in savings of approximately 741,000 kWh of energy and 93.4 kW of demand.

Electric Vehicles

We've pursued projects 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’ve partnered with city officials and others to install level 2 charging stations in Jamestown, North Dakota, and in Morris, Crookston, 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 residential 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 2018 show that we invested approximately $493,000, returning more than $2.8 million in lifetime net benefits for customers. Customer energy savings reached 5.3 million kWh, and more than 1.3 MW of demand savings, which was respectively 140% and 127% of our 2018 EEP goals.

Regulatory requirements included completing a triennial program plan, which was filed and approved in 2016. The plan established a new program portfolio and goals for 2017-2019. The 2018 report summarizing 2017 accomplishments was filed on May 1, 2018, and approved on July 3, 2018, resulting in a financial incentive of $134,700.

North Dakota Energy Conservation

We continue to voluntarily offer demand-response programs and incentives to our North Dakota customers.

Load Management

High customer participation in our direct load-control rates makes our company a leader 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 2018 we connected an additional 12.7 MW of controlled winter-season load and 3.6 MW of controlled summer-season load.