Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) today announced Senate passage of their bipartisan water heater efficiency legislation, which enables rural electric power cooperatives and their members to continue using large, energy-efficient water heaters in “demand response” conservation programs.

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

“Rural electric cooperatives in Minnesota provide a critical service that incentivizes clean energy development and saves consumers money,” Klobuchar said. “This bipartisan legislation will help ensure these providers can continue to provide affordable, efficient energy to rural communities in Minnesota and across the country.”

“This bill enables our rural electrical cooperatives to continue using large, energy-efficient water heaters in their conservation programs,” Hoeven said. “Had the DOE ban on such water heaters taken effect as planned, residents in our rural areas would have had to buy much more expensive water heaters. As a result of our bill, however, consumers save money, rural electric cooperatives optimize their energy management and the environment benefits because the water heaters in the program are energy efficient.”

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 a package of three bills, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015.

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