Early last week, the University of Minnesota recently pulled out of — and then entered back into — the Conservation Improvement Program (CIP), a statewide energy efficiency program. While the program is effective for the University campus, it’s alarming that the University considered not continuing with the program in the first place.
The CIP helps businesses use electricity and natural gas more efficiently, but the program also charges users a fee in addition to their utility costs and channels it into a rebate. This rebate has allowed the University to convert an outdated heating plant into a more systematic steam power plant with a steep price of $2 million — a cost that was rebated by the CIP. However, on Oct. 1, the Board of Regents filed a petition to opt out of the program and the payment.
Over the past five years, the CIP has cost the University approximately $300,000 to become more energy efficient, an ultimately low price for the outcome received. However, the University has claimed that several financial pressures prevented them from securing the benefits, a claim that contradicts the low amount of total spending on the program.
Amid withdrawal, the University received criticism from eight environmental groups around the state and the City of Minneapolis. The efforts ultimately led the University to opt back into the program, a move that will fundamentally benefit the community.
While the withdrawal received little attention around campus, students would have been most affected by the withdrawal, said Joseph Pereira, the regulatory director at the Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota. For example, students pay more for heating due to living conditions, and the CIP may help minimize such costs.
It’s alarming to see the University mistakenly pull out of a program that has helped transform energy consumption on campus. Programs like the CIP are something that the University could see more of. With thousands of students utilizing hundreds of buildings every day, even small steps made to create a more energy efficient University can become giant leaps in the grand scheme of conservation. Eventually, the University must realize that energy efficient programs are favorable to the community, and opting out of such programs is only internally beneficial.
Ultimately, the University needs to opt into more programs like CIP. The University has a responsibility to work with the legislature to institute more efficiency and green energy programs, such as investing in renewable energy and banning single-use plastics. Environmental responsibility should not reserved to the individual, academic institutions or local government, but rather humanity as a whole. Only as a collective can we truly combat negative environmental effects that have been caused by humankind, and the University should be doing its part.