Minnesotans are no strangers to below-freezing temperatures. As concerns about high heating bills and grid reliability in harsh weather mount, nonprofit electric co-ops continue to support their consumer-owners with reliable electric service and ways to save energy during times of increased use.

Reliability is especially important in severe storms and cold weather. The historic February winter storm that led to rolling blackouts in parts of the southern U.S. and Midwest demonstrated the essential role electricity plays in powering our lives. The ongoing global concerns about energy supply further reinforce the benefits to reliability and affordability that come from drawing on a diverse range of fuel sources to supply electricity.

Electric co-ops are increasingly integrating renewable energy resources and take seriously their obligation to provide safe, reliable and affordable electric service. Baseload generation resources like coal, nuclear and natural gas are critical to ensuring reliability and bridging the gap between energy policy and available technologies. Renewable energy resources are just one component of electric cooperatives’ diverse energy portfolio. Fuel diversity provides co-ops flexibility in mitigating higher fuel costs and minimizing outages.

“A diverse energy portfolio helps co-ops save money by using the lowest cost energy source. In addition, co-ops offer a variety of energy efficiency programs that help cut costs and save energy,” says Darrick Moe, CEO, Minnesota Rural Electric Association. “Minnesota’s electric co-ops are dedicated to helping consumer-owners save energy and cut costs year-round.”

Electric cooperatives encourage consumers to take advantage of free or inexpensive options available to better manage energy use and make a meaningful impact on monthly bills.

Have an energy audit. Identifying energy-efficient measures specific to a home can help save money on monthly utility bills. Contact an electric cooperative for more information.

Make sure the fireplace is cleaned and the flue damper is properly sealed. Keep the fireplace damper closed unless burning a fire. Replace an inefficient wood-burning fireplace with a more efficient wood stove or gas insert.

Use the sunshine to an advantage. Open blinds on sunny winter days to warm homes and shut them at sundown to trap heat inside.

Install a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats can automatically turn off or reduce heating and cooling when someone is asleep or not home.

Use smart power strips. Electricity consumed by electronics when they are not in use or on standby wastes energy.

Seal air leaks around the home. Weatherizing homes is an easy way to reduce heating and cooling costs without upgrading HVAC systems. Use weatherstripping, caulk or plastic film on windows and small openings to keep out cold air.

Replace the furnace air filter. Change out the air filter once a month. Maintaining proper airflow keeps HVAC systems from working overtime.

Use LED lighting. LED lights are significantly more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and fluorescents

Lower the water heater temperature. Some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140 degrees, but most households usually only require them to be set at 120 degrees. For each 10-degree reduction in water temperature, users can save 3% to 5% in energy costs.

Energy conservation and demand response programs are valuable tools for saving on monthly bills through reduced electricity rates. Many electric cooperatives offer rebates on energy-efficient products like smart thermostats, air-source heat pumps and electric water heaters, which help reduce both the cost of initial investments and monthly energy usage. Some co-ops even offer financing for energy-efficient home improvement projects.

“Electric co-ops proactively champion innovative solutions, which give consumer-owners resources to save money and energy,” Moe says.

Owned by the members they serve, electric cooperatives are committed to providing affordable, reliable, safe and increasingly clean electricity. For cooperative members having trouble paying their electric bill, contact the local electric co-op to discuss payment plans and receive information on other resources, such as the federally funded Energy Assistance Program for income-qualified households to help with home heating costs and furnace repairs.

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