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Minnesota Companies are Shaping our Clean Energy Future

December 7th, 2017

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition is on the cutting edge of the corporate clean energy purchasing trend. According to GreenBiz, “more than 80 of the world’s largest corporations [have committed] to 100 percent renewable energy… As the list of completed projects grows, the trend initiated by leading companies is moving beyond the early adopters to the mainstream.” The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition seeks to lead our state toward increased renewables purchasing and new clean energy option development.

Recently, the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition took a huge step forward in our corporate renewable energy procurement work by hosting Renewables Purchasing: Corporate Leadership through Clean Energy. The workshop, broken into two sessions, brought together Coalition member companies and Minnesota’s business sustainability leaders at Best Buy’s corporate office to determine what renewable energy procurement options members may want to pursue individually and collectively.

DISCUSSING GREEN TARIFF PROGRAMS AND VPPAs

The first session focused on utility-based purchasing options. To lead the discussion, Environmental Initiative brought in Letha Tawney with World Resources Institute (WRI), an international expert in working closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain our natural resources.

WRI gave an overview of Minnesota’s electricity regulatory context, which constrains the options available to corporate purchasers, and facilitated utility-customer discussions to uncover the values and priorities of corporate customers and identify ways to improve future offerings. Through this discussion, members explored barriers to purchasing and the potential to develop unique green tariff products.

 

The afternoon session was facilitated by Mark Porter and Ali Rotatori with Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), and internationally renowned expert in accelerating the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Coalition members received an overview of non-utility purchasing options and Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs), including market basics, financial considerations, and understanding risk. In addition, attendees explored the internal decision-making process required to execute a renewable energy deal. Ultimately, a VPPA is a financial agreement that requires the involvement of a variety of company functions– from energy managers to the CFO.

WHAT’S NEXT?

From here, Coalition companies and utilities are actively engaged in creating new, easier ways for private entities to purchase renewables, including exploring creating new options. These discussions will not only help companies meet their individual renewable energy goals, but it adds more sustainable sources of energy to the system, opening up opportunities for others outside of the Coalition.

In addition, members will explore the potential to aggregate our purchasing demand. Overall, we’re excited to continue our renewable energy purchasing pursuit with Minnesota’s leading companies and sustainability leaders.

Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition members know that, collectively, we have the power to not only add renewables to the grid, but also demonstrate clean energy leadership in our region. Ultimately, we believe there is a clear and undeniable need for businesses to work together to achieve environmental goals and advance our vision for a circular economy that runs on 100% renewable energy.

If you want to learn more about how utilities’ Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) process could evolve to accommodate a more diverse electric generation system, changing consumer demands, and a more efficient, more renewable, and lower-carbon grid, check out our upcoming Policy Forum: The Evolution of Utility Resource Planning: Designing for Disruption.


This workshop was a continuation of the Coalition’s clean energy work on renewable procurement. You can view the slides from both the morning and afternoon sessions. Earlier this year, we set the foundation for members to talk about potential actions through a webinar focused on the best practices in corporate clean energy purchasing.

Stephanie Weir

POSTED BY:

Project Manager

25 Years of Impact

November 29th, 2017

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Environmental Initiative. For the past quarter-century, we’ve been as successful as we have because of you.

We’ve managed to do incredible things in 25 years, which were enabled by your support, input and encouragement:

  • In 1992, we hosted one of the first Policy Forums on landfills. Conversations from this event continued and led to the 1994 Closed Landfill Act. To date, we’ve hosted nearly 100 Policy Forums on a wide range of topics, including the annual legislative preview.
  • Our first stakeholder convening with the intent of finding policy solutions, the Impaired Waters Stakeholder Process, led to the Clean Water Legacy Act of 2006.
  • Through our 15-year strong partnership, Clean Air Minnesota, we’ve retrofitted over 4,200 diesel engines, changed out hundreds of woodburning stoves and helped dozens of small businesses reduce emissions in Minnesota. As a result, particulate matter pollution has been reduced by the equivalent of removing 1.3 million cars from the road each year.

Support the next 25 years of Powerful Partnerships

However, we realize the pressing issues facing our environment aren’t getting any easier as we move into the next 25 years. We need your continued support so we can address the next set of environmental challenges we face and to ensure a healthy environment, a prosperous economy and an equitable society.

Thanks to the generosity of our current and past Board of Directors, we have a $20,000 match to double your gift between now and December 31st.

Will you support the next 25 years? www.en-in.org/membership-giving

 

Mike Harley

POSTED BY:

Executive Director

Leading the region to a clean energy economy

October 10th, 2017

Corporate demand for renewable energy is one of the key drivers in renewables growth in the United States. According to a recent Deloitte Resources 2017 Study, “What’s clear is that the train has left the station: Renewable energy is vital for corporations, and corporate procurement now rivals policy as a driver of growth in the sector.”

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition (MNSGC) is getting on board, leading the region to a clean energy economy. Coalition members are working together to find the best opportunities to collectively add more renewable energy to our existing systems. The group has identified aggregating renewable energy purchasing as a tangible way to demonstrate the demand for renewables in Minnesota.

In partnership with national experts, World Resources Institute and Rocky Mountain Institute, coalition members are planning a series of trainings with the goal of identifying and pursuing utility-based and non-utility renewable energy, both individually and collectively.

After months of planning, the Coalition kicked off this effort by hosting a webinar with WRI. This opportunity set a foundation of common understanding of best practices for corporate renewable energy procurement and introduced Coalition members to the factors unique to the Minnesota landscape.

Next, the Coalition will host Renewables Purchasing: Corporate Leadership through Clean Energy, a day-long event on the renewable energy procurement options available for the private sector in Minnesota. Through facilitated conversations, participants and organizations will:

  • Explore all the options available to Minnesota companies to procure renewable energy in the state of Minnesota (utility and non-utility)
  • Provide feedback on utilities’ renewable energy purchasing options and identify ways to improve future offerings
  • Identify which procurement options attendees want to pursue beyond this event— aggregated and individual— and have the opportunity to further engage, act on, and/or develop those options

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition is on the cutting edge of the corporate renewable purchasing trend. The landscape has grown exponentially in the last 5 years. The Coalition’s pursuit of renewables purchasing, especially the potential for aggregating demand, showcases true regional leadership and our commitment to 100% renewables in Minnesota, and ultimately, a circular economy.

Stephanie Weir

POSTED BY:

Project Manager

Celebrate Energy Innovation with Great Plains Institute

October 5th, 2017

Environmental Initiative has a long history of convening professionals in the energy and clean energy sectors, so we’re excited to tell you about an upcoming event in our community on renewables and energy innovation.

Great Plains Institute (GPI) is hosting their annual Energy Innovation Celebration on October 11 at the Landmark Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota. GPI has been a valued partner of ours in a lot of different ways—through the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition and helping us plan countless Policy Forums. We’re excited that they also embrace our shared values of Courageous Innovation and Better Together within the energy sector.

October 11, 2017
11:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Landmark Center, St. Paul, MN

 

The event will include a variety of activities, panelists, and topics surrounding city commitment to clean energy and private-sector roles. An agenda, speakers list, and other details about the event can be found on GPI’s website.

Environmental Initiative will be there, and we hope to see you there, too!

Mike Harley

POSTED BY:

Executive Director

Meet Great River Energy, Member of the Month

September 6th, 2017

Great River Energy (GRE) has a long history with Environmental Initiative (remember when it was Minnesota Environmental Initiative?). One of our early connections was with Energy Alley, which provided a clearinghouse of environmental information for businesses and individuals.

Energy Alley was the first collaborative effort in Minnesota to advance renewable energy and efficiency in what is now known as the clean energy sector.

Over the years, GRE has continued to support Environmental Initiative’s work, and we congratulate this fine non-profit organization on 25 very successful years of bringing together stakeholders– businesses, NGOs, government, citizens– to work toward viable solutions to Minnesota’s environmental problems.

ORGANIZATIONAL PARTNER TO MULTIPLE PROJECTS

For many years GRE has been a premier sponsor of Environmental Initiative’s annual Environmental Initiative Awards event. This event brings together over 400 environmental leaders to celebrate and honor innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results through the power of partnership. GRE has also been a long-time sponsor of Environmental Initiative’s Legislative Preview, a Policy Forum event hosted each year. We are a member of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition which, led by members of the business community, has worked on initiatives including growth in renewable energy for electric end uses such as electric vehicles. Through this work and outside of it, GRE views Environmental Initiative as a stakeholder in the environmental community and seeks their input.

PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT AND DEDICATION

Personally, I’ve been involved with Environmental Initiative for more than 10 years and was honored to serve on the organization’s board for nine of those years. During that time, I was able to experience a closer view of the “inner workings” of Environmental Initiative. An organization’s most important asset is its employees, and Environmental Initiative is no exception. I have always been impressed with the quality and dedication of staff. Each brings a unique skill set and vibrant enthusiasm to their job. Professionally leading the organization and thoughtfully carrying out its mission is Executive Director Mike Harley, who is celebrating his 20-year anniversary with the organization next month. Through Mike’s leadership, relationships, commitment and energy, Environmental Initiative continues to evolve and remains a highly respected organization in our community.

So, happy 25th birthday, Environmental Initiative– and here’s to 25 more fantastic years of making positive change happen for the betterment of our environment and our citizens.


Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 8108 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Mary Jo Roth

POSTED BY:

Manager, Environmental Services at Great River Energy

Minnesota Power: A Champion of Regional Success

July 20th, 2017

As we head out into these bright summer mornings, many of our thoughts turn north—toward cabins, lakes, forests, fishing, boats and hammocks. Much of my work at Environmental Initiative takes place in northern Minnesota, so as my thoughts go north, I am also grateful for those who champion clean air in that part of the state, like Minnesota Power.

Minnesota Power is a founding member of Clean Air Minnesota and its support has been critical to not only our air work as a whole, but Project Stove Swap and Project Green Fleet  specifically.

A PARTNER FROM THE BEGINNING

"Schoo Bus"At the beginning of Project Green Fleet, Minnesota Power was one of our first partners to help us work with a private school bus fleet. Right after the project was announced, Mike Cashin and Margaret Hodnik, now retired, of Minnesota Power offered their offices and arranged meetings with bus companies. Again and again, Mike and his colleagues were willing and eager to put their influence to work in support of the project to reduce bus emissions.

That local connection was key. After a meeting with Voyageur Bus Co. arranged by Minnesota Power, we got to work retrofitting buses in the Duluth area that summer, starting with the Voyageur fleet– the first private fleet to work with us. It would not have happened had our friends at Minnesota Power not been willing to take a risk and stick their necks out on our behalf.

TODAY: PROMOTING ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN NORTHERN MINNESOTA

Fast forward to today, and Minnesota Power’s steadfast, open-minded support continues. For years, partners in Clean Air Minnesota have known that wood stove swap-outs are a highly cost-effective means to reduce a variety of air pollutants. The only barrier has been a lack of funding to run a large-scale project in Minnesota. While these projects have taken place in many other states, they tend to be relatively short-term efforts that fade once the initial funds are expended.

Minnesota Power worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice to improve the way wood stove change-out programs could work, mirroring a long-term, public-private model. Minnesota Power worked with us to suggest that these programs could have more impact if they were constructed to run a bit longer and focus more on community building, thus providing an opportunity to leverage additional public and private resources to do even more work.

With Minnesota Power’s help, we convinced the federal agencies to take a chance on our model, now a full-scale wood stove change-out effort called Project Stove Swap. I’ve been spending quite a bit of my time on this for the last year and a half and the results have been promising, from the well-covered launch to the preliminary results. In just four months of running at scale, the project has already reduced more than 10 tons of particulate matter annually, the equivalent of taking over 180,000 cars off of the road every year.

THANK YOU

We wouldn’t have seen any of these results without Mike Cashin, Josh Goutermont, Nancy Norr, Randi Nyholm and others at Minnesota Power who were willing to listen to our ideas and stick with us in talking to agencies. Undoubtedly, this made their lives more complicated. But the reward for their commitment and their company’s support is a project that will produce economic, health and environmental benefits for years to come.


A note from Environmental Initiative:

In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th anniversary, members of our staff will take turns throughout the year highlighting the organization’s most influential and effective collaborators. We want to say thank you to the amazing people who help us achieve all we do.

Mikey Weitekamp

POSTED BY:

Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

Member of the Month: CenterPoint Energy

July 6th, 2017

CenterPoint Energy is honored to be the July featured member of the month. We value our membership with Environmental Initiative and the important message it promotes about collaborating to improve the environment. CenterPoint Energy is passionate about contributing to a cleaner environment. We work to increase energy efficiency to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy costs for our customers through our Conservation Improvement Program offerings. Our company has operated in Minnesota for more than 150 years, providing safe, reliable natural gas and related services. CenterPoint Energy currently serves over 840,000 customers in more than 300 communities.

CenterPoint Energy has been offering conservation programs for nearly 30 years. We work with residential, commercial, and industrial customers to help them upgrade equipment, improve building envelopes, pursue efficient building designs and change customer behavior to reduce natural gas usage.

CenterPoint Energy’s conservation program energy savings surpassed the company’s savings goal last year by nearly 30 percent. In 2016, 2,006,014 dekatherms (dth) of natural gas was saved, the equivalent of removing about 23,185 passenger vehicles from the road for one year. The company’s energy conservation efforts have been highly successful and continue to exceed our energy conservation goals. These efforts not only improve the environment, but also provide a valuable service to our customers, allowing them to reduce their energy bills.

The success of our conservation program is due largely to a number of strategic partnerships with other utilities, cities, business associations, and non-profit organizations. “More people working collaboratively towards a similar goal is a great way to maximize potential.” said CenterPoint Energy director of energy efficiency, Todd Berreman.

One example of collaboration that helps make our conservation program successful is the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP), a one-of-a-kind collaboration between CenterPoint Energy, the City of Minneapolis and Xcel Energy. This partnership between the City and its electric and natural gas utility providers was established to help Minneapolis reach its goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and increase participation and energy savings through utility conservation programs in the City. In 2016, the CEP was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the unique and cutting edge collaborative approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

CenterPoint Energy looks forward to many more years of membership with Environmental Initiative as we collaborate to achieve a cleaner environment.


Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 8108 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Brad Tutunjian

POSTED BY:

Vice President of Gas Operations, CenterPoint Energy

Paris Withdrawal Won’t Stop Business Sustainability

June 27th, 2017

In the wake of the United States leaving the Paris Climate Agreements, many states, cities, and individual companies have taken pledges to continue sustainability efforts. In Minnesota, we’re lucky to have major companies and thought leaders stand firm in their commitment to environmental protection, including many members of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition.

In an effort to work toward a circular economy, environmental protection and stewardship must be a high priority. Several Coalition members have issued public statements and/or been in public support of the Paris Climate Agreements, demonstrating the leadership in our community on environmental issues.

The fact is, a commitment to the Paris Agreements, and more broadly our environment, is a smart business decision no matter your priorities.

STAYING GLOBALLY COMPETITIVE

One of the main reasons that companies and government entities are still following through with climate promises is to stay competitive. Cargill issued a statement reflecting their need to remain globally competitive, concluding that the Paris accords impact “trade, economic vitality, the state of our environment, and relationships amongst the world community.” Because of this, CEO David MacLennan said Cargill will not back away from efforts
to reduce climate change.

General Mills and several leading companies (Google, Walmart, Unilever, and more) echoed that sentiment with a letter to the President to express why the Paris Climate Agreements are important to their ability to compete globally: “the agreement ensures a more balanced global effort, reducing the risk of competitive imbalances for U.S. companies.”

INNOVATION & OPEN MARKETS

Part of being globally competitive is practicing innovation. The Paris Climate Agreements helped companies to innovate and create technologies that lower business costs. That new technology allows companies to enter new markets and keep markets open. Dow commented on how they will act in light of the executive decision, saying they will “continue to advocate for smart policies that enable the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that global markets stay open to American exports and innovation.”

Thomson Reuters also commented on the importance of climate innovation: “In short, having a sustainability strategy integrated into your business model is an efficiency, growth and innovation driver.”

COMMITTING TO CUSTOMERS

In addition to economic arguments, Xcel Energy made a more values-driven appeal. In an op-ed, Xcel’s CEO calls out the value of their customers, and responding to their interests in achieving a higher standard of environmental protection. As a result, Xcel is already on a “path to reduce carbon emissions by 45%
by 2021, well ahead of the U.S.-Paris commitment.”

Best Buy also highlighted what they’re doing in response to customer interests, saying, “Best Buy is focused on reducing our own carbon impact, and helping our customers use less energy as well… Collective action will result in a healthier world for generations to come.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

In the end, Minnesota businesses and corporations are dedicated to the environment for more than just regulatory reasons. Investing in environmental protection is a smart business decision. Even more than that, private-sector leaders see lessened environmental protections as harmful to their organizations and global markets as a whole.

These businesses, our state, and many others are still committed to action on the environment. It’s because of that leadership that we can still look forward to climate action for years to come.

Sam Hanson

POSTED BY:

Director, Sustainability Program

Hooray for Hutchinson! Meet the Energy & Climate Winners

April 18th, 2017

The Energy and Climate category award is given to a partnership that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, cuts energy consumption, advances energy efficiency, or improves air quality. It’s projects like these that prepare our state to adapt to a changing global climate.

The City of Hutchinson, Ameresco, Xcel Energy and many more partners came together in a cross-sector partnership to do just that. Through this solar project, the City reduced emissions in their community, making a better quality of life for residents and our planet. Not only is this project innovative and groundbreaking, it transformed one of Minnesota’s brown areas blue. Join us in congratulating these project partners!

A FIRST FOR MINNESOTA

 

Made possible by a generous Renewable Development Fund grant from Xcel Energy, The City of Hutchinson Landfill Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System is a 400-kilowatt system supplying 15% of the power needs of the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. This project is the largest solar PV installation on a landfill in Minnesota, and the first ballast-mounted on a brownfield.

In layman’s terms, not only was this mounted and installed in an innovative way, it also transformed a landfill into something restorative that gives back to the community in cost savings, and to the state in environmental benefit. As a result of repurposing a 1970s-era municipal landfill, the City reduced CO2 emissions by 1.4 million pounds per year, roughly the equivalent of taking 133 vehicles off the road each year.

FROM THE PROJECT PARTNERS

“The City of Hutchinson was able to make Minnesota’s first landfill mounted Solar PV project possible through strong partnerships with Xcel Energy, AMERESCO, Hutchinson Utilities, tenKsolar, Hunt Electric, and many more,” said Hutchinson Mayor Gary Forcier. “Being recognized by Environmental Initiative for this project affirms the importance of this unique collaboration and that our City’s commitment to innovation can foster resounding benefits to our residents as well as others across the state and region.”

“The electrical energy produced by the solar panels provides enough dollar savings such that the project is guaranteed to pay for itself in less than 18 years, and with an estimated life of over 30 years; the City and residents will receive all the financial benefits in future years.” —John Neville, AMERESCO

CELEBRATE THIS EFFORT

Join us on Thursday, May 25 to congratulate and celebrate these project partners, their positive environmental outcomes, and the lasting benefit of collaboration. To shake things up, we’re also honoring three individuals in honor of our 25th anniversary, so it’s sure to be a night of reflection and festivities for Minnesota’s environmental community. Purchase your tickets or tables here »

 

 

 


A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th Anniversary, four organizational and two individual awards will be presented on May 25, 2017 at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. Get your tickets before they’re gone »

Damian Goebel

POSTED BY:

Communications Director

Have you met the Community Action category winners?

April 13th, 2017

The Community Action category award is given to partnerships that solve environmental challenges on a community scale—which can mean a lot of things. From grassroots efforts and utilizing volunteers, to policy initiatives that contribute to improved quality of life, this award recognizes those who come together.

The Metropolitan Council, the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team (CERTs), a slew of local governments, and many more project partners came together to produce solid environmental and economic outcomes—making them this year’s Community Action winner.

An Award-Winning Effort

 

 

The Governmental Solar Garden Collaborative is a joint effort by and for 31 local governments in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan region to procure solar garden subscriptions from a single Request for Proposals (RFP) process. The goal in getting these subscriptions is to offset the energy usage at public facilities.

The results? Twenty-four of the 31 participants said that they were moving to sign subscription agreements for a cumulative 33 megawatts of solar capacity. If you’re like me, you have no idea what this means.

Basically, most participating local governments are working to offset public facility energy use by signing up for a clean energy alternative. By doing so, these local governments have added a surprising figure of solar capacity to the state. To give you an idea of how meaningful 33 megawatts is, Minnesota generated a total of 35 megawatts for community solar subscriptions during the entirety of 2015.

Perhaps more importantly, this project highlights the power of partnership—and its lasting benefit. Because of this effort, the group is continuing conversations concerning additional collaborative purchasing for public building solar and electric vehicles for local government fleets.

FROM THE PROJECT PARTNERS

“By working together and sharing resources, the partners could reduce costs, create opportunities for communities of all sizes, and make a larger impact than any organization could have had alone. The result will be the development of 33 megawatts of solar electricity– enough to power over 4,000 Minnesota homes for 25 years– and a significant reduction of government spending on energy in public facilities.” –Trevor Drake, Co-Director of the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team and Project Manager at Great Plains Institute.

“What will have long lasting impact is how public and private entities combined their knowledge, skills and expertise to generate subscriptions to 33 MW of solar development… This type of procurement for solar energy was a groundbreaking, innovative approach that has applied across the nation in only a few regions.” –Peter Lindstrom, Local Government Outreach Coordinator with the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) at the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension.

“I’m most proud of the willingness and determination of everyone involved to try something new. It’s easy to look back at something that was successful and be glad to have done it. It’s much more difficult, however, to move forward with something that seems like a good idea but might not succeed. Everyone involved in this project took a risk in joining the process and seeing it through. I’m proud that our region is made up of local governments and partners that are willing and determined to be innovative in the face of great challenges.” –Trevor Drake, Co-Director of the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team and Project Manager at Great Plains Institute.

CELEBRATE THIS EFFORT

Join us on Thursday, May 25 to congratulate and celebrate these project partners, their positive environmental outcomes, and the lasting benefit of collaboration. To shake things up, we’re also honoring three individuals in honor of our 25th anniversary, so it’s sure to be a night of reflection and festivities for Minnesota’s environmental community. Purchase your tickets or tables here »

 

 

 


A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th Anniversary, four organizational and two individual awards will be presented on May 25, 2017 at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. Get your tickets before they’re gone »

Damian Goebel

POSTED BY:

Communications Director

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