Measure Saves Consumers Additional Expense for Hot Water 

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) announced that President Obama this afternoon signed their Water Heater Efficiency legislation into law. The new law enables rural electric power cooperatives and their members to continue using large, energy-efficient water heaters in “demand response” conservation programs. The measure passed the Senate last month and the House earlier this month.

The bill addresses the Department of Energy’s (DOE) plan to phase out these water heaters by April 2015. The DOE’s new rules did not take into account the value of these water heaters to both consumers and the electrical cooperatives that serve them throughout rural America.

“Rural communities across Minnesota and our nation count on electric cooperatives for reliable energy,” Klobuchar said.  “Now that this bill has been signed into law, farms and small businesses can rest assured that these cooperatives can continue to provide them with the affordable, efficient electricity they need.”

“This commonsense, bipartisan bill is now the law of the land, enabling our rural electrical cooperatives to continue using large, energy-efficient water heaters and ensuring our rural residents won’t be forced to buy a more expensive unit,” Hoeven said. “Consumers save money, rural electric cooperatives optimize their energy management and, because the water heaters in the program are energy efficient, the environment benefits.”

Darrick Moe, Minnesota Rural Electric Association, President and CEO, said: “On behalf of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association members, we are grateful for your hard work in advocating for the Rural Electric Cooperatives in Minnesota by finding a way to protect the use of large capacity electric water heaters in our load management programs.   Large capacity water heaters are the best storage alternative currently available on the electrical power grid because the water heater elements are run through the night, when generation resources such as wind energy are plentiful and loads are light.

During the day the elements are turned off when loads are high and generation resources are stretched thin.  While other systems of storing energy undergo research and development, Minnesota’s cooperatives have these load management practices and technologies in place today to provide for a more reliable and economic system, and facilitate the integration of renewable energy resources.”

“North Dakota’s rural electric cooperatives are extremely grateful for Senator Hoeven’s diligent leadership in achieving this water heater fix,” said Dennis Hill, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the North Dakota Association of Electrical Cooperatives earlier this month when the measure passed the House. “North Dakota’s rural electric Cooperatives have relied on large capacity thermal storage water heaters in demand response programs for years.  We have thousands of these water heaters in use across North Dakota and losing this option would have been a real blow to demand response programs used by rural electric cooperatives.”

“Electric co-ops across the country appreciate the incredible leadership and persistence of Senator Hoeven for his role in getting S. 535 across the finish line,” said Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “The bill helps save consumers money, promotes reliability of the grid, and helps integrate renewable energy – truly a win-win-win piece of legislation.”

Demand response programs use off-peak electricity to conserve energy and reduce costs to consumers. The programs also help electrical cooperatives to manage load during periods of peak demand. Additionally, in areas where wind is in the energy mix, the programs can help integrate renewable energy into the grid by enabling power to be stored under conditions when renewable sources are not producing power.

The bill allows the continued manufacture of large “grid-enabled” electric-resistance water heaters only for use in electric thermal storage or demand response programs. It also requires “grid-enabled water heaters” to have a volume of more than 75 gallons, be energy efficient and work on grids that have a demand response program.

The Hoeven-Klobuchar provision was passed as part of the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015, which the president signed this afternoon.