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 Response Page - Hinkle / Doll  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Lynn Hinkle / John Doll Interview of


Lynn Hinkle, Policy Director, Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association, and John Doll, former Minnesota State Senator describe the detail behind Executive Order 11-12 signed by Governor Dayton earlier this year. That order calls for use of existing laws for financing energy saving capital improvements of public buildings through the investment of private funds, which are repaid over time by the guaranteed annual realized energy savings. The speakers say the state aims to save $200 million and create 3,000 jobs with this effort.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Hinkle and Doll. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Retrofits save money. (7.9 average response) Public agencies and private firms alike can realize significant savings by retrofitting buildings to reduce energy expense.

2. Savings pay for upgrades. (6.9 average response) Retrofitting won't mean higher prices for private goods or higher taxes for public agencies, because dollars saved from reduced energy bills can be used to pay for retrofitting.

3. Jobs will result. (6.9 average response) Retrofitting also will create jobs


Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Retrofits save money.







2. Savings pay for upgrades.







3. Jobs will result.







Individual Responses:

R. C. Angevine  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)

Amanda Giliotti  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)

3. Jobs will result. Although they will be short-term jobs.  They won't be long-term careers, so this is a temporary solution to job creation.

 David G. Dillon  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Retrofits save money. Well, it's sort of [obvious], isn't it?  "Can realize", of course, is very different from "will realize."

2. Savings pay for upgrades. Assuming it is done well, yes.

3. Jobs will result. Well, again, [it is obvious].  My concern with all of this is two-fold: First, it's really “small beer.”  Glad to hear about it, and yes, better to light one candle; but let's remember that it [in] no way really addresses either of the two critical issues:  climate change or a successful economy.  Second, there is a real concern about celebrating the inputs rather than the accomplishments of such an effort.  How efficient in making improvement will all these efforts be?  I have doubts.  The real solution will be found in creating a way to price carbon.  So, let's celebrate a good step forward but also rededicate ourselves to the larger opportunity.

W. D. (Bill) Hamm  (10)  (5)  (5)

1. Retrofits save money. A fairly straightforward statement that has little to do with evaluating this issue.

2. Savings pay for upgrades. I am thinking of the failed steam plant retrofit effort in Duluth recently involving Johnson Controls that ended up in court over savings that never materialized.

3. Jobs will result. I strongly suspect that it will retain more jobs than it will create unless this thing is pushed very hard creating a greater opportunity for failure. It won't take many failures to shut this whole effort down. While I like the idea of it, I have yet to see any proof that is going to work for more than a very few large companies.

John Sievert  (7.5)  (7.5)  (0)

1. Retrofits save money. Unfortunately, our elected representatives don't know how to properly evaluate such projects.  Half the time this turns into boondoggles.

2. Savings pay for upgrades. Unfortunately, our elected representatives don't know how to properly evaluate such projects.  Half the time this turns into boondoggles.

3. Jobs will result. Who cares?  This is just another … government argument for a reason to spend money.  I get so tired of hearing this one.  Half the time (or more) it's just nonsense.

Dennis L. Johnson  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)

1. Retrofits save money. The essential element is that the company doing the retrofit is competent and will guarantee the projected savings. All buildings are different, and the calculations involved are complex. Experience and engineering skills are needed to do this competently. Despite a guarantee, a company can go bankrupt and recouping the expense can be problematical.  A good idea in concept but relies totally on the competence of the retrofit company.

2. Savings pay for upgrades. Companies and agencies should look before they leap.  They should also look into such factors as the alternate use of the capital involved and the return from this alternate use, the feasibility of building new rather than trying to retrofit an old, inefficient building, and the consideration of alternative technologies for the retrofit.

3. Jobs will result. This should generate jobs in rough proportion to the money being spent if politics are kept out of it, things such as minimum wage rates, union workers, equal opportunity employment, etc., which can destroy the economic feasibility of these energy retrofits.

Don Anderson  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)

Dave Broden  (5)  (2.5)  (5)

1. Retrofits save money. This is a great goal but the hype is likely greater than the reality since many buildings just are not build and cannot be rebuilt to realize the level of saving projected. The bottom line is that all efforts should be made for energy efficiency but not to expect significant gains --all level of improvements if cost payoff is real makes sense but do not do it just for hype.

2. Savings pay for upgrades. The saving will be real but only if amortized over a long period in most cases. If that is the case then the upfront cost has to be paid for so we need to determine how that may work.

3. Jobs will result. Jobs? Short-term, yes. Training of workers? Yes. Longer term jobs is the question, but we need both short- and long-term jobs.

Peter Hennessey  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)

1. Retrofits save money. The speakers have not provided any proof for this assertion.   Retrofitting is [a] large expense up front, and payback is very slow because it comes in the form of a comparatively small reduction in a comparatively small recurring expense.   The proposed financing scheme is also suspect. The proposal is to borrow private funds to retrofit public buildings, then repay the loan from the expected reduction in the government's utility bills. Why not just issue bonds and pay a decent interest rate? What if the expected reductions in utility bills don't materialize? Then the lenders won't be paid?

2. Savings pay for upgrades. The speakers have not provided any proof for this assertion.  There is no way that the reduction in utility bills will cover the costs of retrofitting, unless you count your payback period in decades.  My own experience with trying to fit my house with solar panels is that the payback period is more like 40 years, assuming no inflation, no changes in utility rates. The installation is guaranteed only for 20 years. This is ridiculous. Another experience was equally disappointing; we put two feet of additional insulation in our attic, with the help of subsidies from the local electric company, with no appreciable reduction in electric or gas usage. This idea may look attractive in theory but is ridiculous in practice if you start with house or building that was built according to code.  Furthermore, it is well within everybody's experience with government-run or government-regulated utilities that when total consumption goes down, per unit rates go up, because the utility must still meet certain fixed costs. I have seen this time and time again in CA when water was rationed due to a drought, and when electric rate tables were inverted so the less you use, the lower your rates, etc. Governments are also great at granting utilities yearly inflation adjustments.  Therefore there is every reason to expect that if a retrofitting campaign is successful, and total energy consumption is reduced, then the rates will go up and there will be very little or no net savings, in other words practically nothing to balance the costs of retrofitting.

3. Jobs will result. The speakers have not provided any proof for this assertion.  Certainly any retrofitting project requires the temporary employment of construction and other workers. After the project is complete, they move on. The only way this could be interpreted as "creating" jobs is if the contract is long term; for example, if the same company and employees are engaged in retrofitting facilities in the same geographic area for years and years. Otherwise they are just transients; no local jobs are created.   This was my experience with the stimulus program in 2009. Early in the year there were signs all over San Francisco about all the federal money being used to repave some streets. Out of state crews disrupted traffic all over town, laid new macadam, then disappeared. Nothing temporary or permanent in terms of local jobs was created. They even brown-bagged their lunches.

Anonymous   (0)  (0)  (0)

Vici Oshiro  (10)  (10)  (10)

Robert J. Brown  (10)  (8)  (6)

Barbara R Grove  (10)  (10)  (10)

Bright Dornblaser  (10)  (8)  (10)

Paul and Ruth Hauge  (10)  (8)  (9)

Chuck Lutz  (10)  (10)  (9)

Al Quie  (10)  (10)  (10)

While Gretchen and I lived in the Governor's Residence, retrofitting was done. Energy savings paid for it in 8 months.

Bert Press  (10)  (5)  (10)

Wayne Jennings  (10)  (10)  (10)

A no-brainer. Let’s go.

Terry Stone  (5)  (0)  (5)

This is a lot of money being committed without adequate legislative
oversight. I don't see an opportunity for competitive bidding. The system
looks ripe for abuse and waste.   

I find it remarkable that the private sector that survives by sniffing out deals can’t seem to sniff out the value of this deal. Instead, this looks like a lot like a gullible and not-too-responsible public sector is being sold a product to serve the politically correct thinking it was sold earlier.

The public sector is just chock-full of ideas that seemed good at the time. This most resembles an end run around legislative efforts to control state spending. These expenditures do not show up during the budget-balancing festivities.

The fact that bonding for these types of projects is sky-high speaks loudly; private sector investment is voting with their feet—and investing elsewhere.

This entire concept is an uncomfortable amalgam of conflicted interests.

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (6)  (6)  (5)


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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