Pathway to clean energy

Marshall workshop turnout shows a ‘lot of interest’ and ‘momentum’

Photo by Karin Elton Mayor Bob Byrnes introduces Marshall Municipal Utilities manager Brad Roos at a recent clean energy workshop. Roos said one of the things MMU is doing is swapping out old streetlights for LED energy efficient lights.

MARSHALL — Eleven people were expected at a recent clean transportation meeting but the meeting room at Marshall Municipal Utilities was almost full Tuesday afternoon.

Abby Finis and Jessi Wyatt, energy planners and analysts with the Great Plains Institute, who facilitate the meetings, said the turnout showed a “lot of interest around this topic and that there is a lot of momentum” in the area of clean energy.

Throughout June, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has hosted workshops around the state for residents to make their voices heard and share thoughts on ways that the state can get to clean transportation, clean air and a stable climate.

Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes was there in addition to three city council members, Russ Labat, Craig Schafer and John DeCramer.

Byrnes introduced Brad Roos, MMU general manager, who told about what MMU is doing to reducing Marshall’s carbon footprint.

“In our community, 43 percent (of our energy) comes from renewable resources which includes hydroelectric dams on the Missouri River and I’m happy to announce that beginning Jan. 1, 2020, we’re going to make available to our customers an opportunity to take that 43 percent and take it as high as they want through a voluntary program called Bright Energy Choices where people can buy renewables, buy credit and that complements another program called Bright Energy Solutions (which is offered to commercial and industrial customers of MMU in partnership with Missouri River Energy Services) where we incentivize our customers to do energy-saving things.”

Roos then introduced Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley, who said he just started his position five months ago.

Kelley said the commerce department is responsible for a variety of duties including regulating banks, credit card unions and insurance companies and administrating federal energy funds for low income heating assistance and for weatherization.

“The Governor (Tim Walz) and Lieutenant Governor (Peggy Flanagan) have been very clear in that they think climate change is an existential problem and we need to be serious in taking action in respect to it. Secondly, they have told the commissioners to work together, so this partnership, so this partnership is not just among agencies, but among commissioners with a commitment to work together.”

Kelley said Walz’s One Minnesota program encourages Minnesotans to work together to establish shared sustainable prosperity and finding ways as we solve these problems.

“This region has been a contributor to that with wind power and ethanol and a variety of other renewable resources,” he said. “One of the things to also pay attention to is the number of jobs that can come from that renewable energy. With this potential decarbonization transportation, we’re going to have to develop a new infrastructure and have to support that. There will be construction jobs and people maintaining these facilities everywhere in Minnesota. We see it as an economic development opportunity. Southwestern Minnesota has already demonstrated it works and people can benefit from it. We want to make sure it continues to grow here and everywhere in Minnesota.”

Tim Sexton, the chief sustainability officer for MnDOT, told the audience about how and why the Pathways to Transportation Decarbonization project which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, got started.

“Back in 2007 there was a Next Generation Energy Act,” Sexton said. “It set some climate goals economy-wide for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2007 the electricity sector has really made some significant reductions and they continue to make reductions over time. The transportation sector has done less and in fact, in recent years emissions have actually increased in transportation.”

So the push is on to reduce transportation emissions, which is the No. 1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota.

Sexton said agencies are working together to tackle this problem such as the commerce department, Pollution Control Agency, the Agriculture Department, the McKnight Foundation, and the utility sector.

The “Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation” project will explore potential strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from cars, trucks, and buses in Minnesota with the goal of making progress toward state GHG reduction targets in the Next Generation Energy Act for years 2025 (-30% from 2005) and 2050 (-80% from 2005).

“The first part has already happened, more or less,” he said. “We met with technical experts — folks from transit agencies, biofuel representatives, people representing electrification, nonprofits, the universities — all these people to help us come up with assumptions and create some data. Modeling is the second piece of this. The stage that were doing now is the third phase. We’re going out into the public and we’re doing meetings here and in Minneapolis and Duluth and Bemidji and Rochester. We’re sharing the information that we’ve put together so far and give you something to respond to along with your original ideas if we’ve missed things. In the next couple of days we are going to wrap that up and then we’re going to take all this information in the month of July and parts of August and put it all together, compile it all, evaluate it all and this is going to be a report we’re going to make public and presented to all the state agencies and the governor’s office.”

To participate in a clean energy survey, go to https://mndot forms.formstack.com/forms/mndot_path ways_to_reducing_green house_gas_emissions