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Cold Weather Rule goes into effect earlier, lasts later

ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s Cold Weather Rule (CWR), which is administered by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, protects residential utility customers from having electric or natural gas service shut off between October 1 and April 30.

The effective dates of the Cold Weather Rule were extended 15 days in the fall and 15 days in the spring by the Minnesota Legislature in 2021.

Commerce advocated for this change after engaging in annual Tribal consultation and learning from Tribal leaders about concerns that Minnesota’s changing climate was leading to cold spells earlier in fall and later in spring.

Both homeowners and renters are eligible for CWR protection – the utility account must be in your name. You and your utility must agree to a payment plan that is reasonable for your household.

For more information or assistance, see the PUC “Shutoff Protection” info online or call the PUC’s Consumer Affairs Office: 651-296-0406.

Water bill assistance is newly available and households can also qualify for weatherization.

By submitting one application through the Energy Assistance Program, households could qualify for payments to cover both water and energy bills, and qualify them for the Minnesota Weatherization Program, also operated by Commerce. Weatherization helps households with home improvements to conserve energy and lower their energy costs permanently. Water bill assistance is new, created through one-time federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“Commerce is working to provide Minnesotans with more options so you can afford critical services – heat, water, lights, power – that you need to be safe and comfortable in your home,” said Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Grace Arnold.

“People should call their utilities and sign up for payment plans, or call our offices for assistance. We want to ensure everyone gets the help they need to have reliable power this winter,” said Katie Sieben, the Chair of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

How do you apply? Request an application or find your local service provider with one of these options:

• Search online for “Minnesota energy assistance”

• Go online: gov/energyassistance

• Call 800-657-3710 and press 1

Who qualifies? More Minnesotans qualify than ever before.

• Homeowners and renters can qualify for energy assistance.

• Commerce has raised the income eligibility to 60% of median household income.

• The application considers previous 3 months income and does not include federal stimulus or unemployment payments.

How does the program work?  

• Payments on energy and water bills are sent directly to the household’s utility company.

• Households also receive education on efficient and safe use of energy.

Contact your natural gas or electric company and request a Cold Weather Rule (CWR) payment plan.

Payment plans can be established at any time during the CWR season. If you are unable to agree on a payment amount, you have the right to appeal with your natural gas or electric company. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Consumer Affairs Office is available to assist.

Can your heat be shut off during winter?

Yes. You must make and keep a CWR payment plan with your natural gas or electric utility company to receive CWR protection between October 1 and April 30. This is true for all residential customers, including senior citizens and families with young children.

Payment plans can be established at any time during the CWR season. If the payment plan is broken by you, the natural gas or electric company is not required to offer additional arrangements. If you are unable to agree on a payment amount, you request an appeal from your natural gas or electric company.

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