A Tale of Three Cities: Change a Light Bulb, Change the World
For me, 2015 was a tale of three cities — Minneapolis, Rochester, and Paris. Individually, they reveal lessons about working together better today, planning for a more sustainable future, and committing to global action for generations to come. Viewed together, they underscore a shared value in local action that both drives and supports global change: Change a light bulb, change the world.
CEE’s year began in Minnesota’s largest city, with implementation of the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership. This first-in-the-nation innovative partnership was born from analysis in a 2013 Minneapolis Energy Pathways Study that CEE prepared for the City. Established through agreements CEE helped negotiate, the partnership leverages the unique resources of Minneapolis, Xcel Energy, and CenterPoint Energy to achieve carbon reduction goals.
The Clean Energy Partnership began its work in January 2015. Throughout a very successful first year, it demonstrated immense potential for climate progress. Year one delivered a new multifamily energy efficiency program offered by CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy, enhanced attention to community solar garden opportunities, a new LED streetlight program through Xcel Energy, and other highlights — including a significant increase in visits by the Home Energy Squad, a state-of-the-art residential energy efficiency program that CEE administers for Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy.
In December we capped off the year in Rochester, Minnesota, as CEE’s team delivered recommendations for building a cost-effective pathway to climate neutrality in the Destination Medical Center (DMC) development district.
Again, the project’s origins are very local. In April 2015, Destination Medical Center Corporation’s board of directors adopted a draft development plan with two initial Sustainability Visions for Energy and Climate within the DMC region:
- Climate: To achieve carbon neutrality across Destination Medication Center.
- Energy: To implement the most progressive, responsive, and resilient district energy network in the country.
The McKnight Foundation selected CEE to provide the DMC corporation board with a series of pragmatic but far reaching recommendations to turn this expansive vision into reality.
With project partner EverGreen Energy — a district energy and cogeneration expert — CEE worked with local experts from Rochester Public Utilities, Mayo Clinic, the City of Rochester, the DMC Economic Development Authority, Minnesota Energy Resources, and others to develop interlocking recommendations to achieve carbon neutrality in DMC soon after 2030.
Through a combination of highly efficient buildings, expanded district energy systems, and integrated renewables, DMC can become a global icon for sustainable energy development, and enhance the already stellar reputation of Rochester and Mayo Clinic as international leaders on health, wellness, and sustainability.
And between these two events in Minneapolis and Rochester, the world came together in Paris to commit to reducing the world’s carbon emissions, finally addressing the urgent issue of global climate change.
Make no mistake, this global commitment is again rooted in local action.
Watching and reading about the work of Paris Climate Conference delegates, I felt directly connected to the agreements they were forging. As a building takes shape brick by brick, the Paris climate agreement will come to life community by community, across the world, around the U.S., and here at home in Minnesota.
We took important local steps last year in Minneapolis and Rochester, as well as in Duluth, Red Wing, Slayton, Austin, Bemidji, and all over our state. CEE’s deep roots combining technical analysis and community programming offer unique perspective to guide this local action. And now aligned with global action, we’re making real head way to reach carbon-reduction targets that 197 nations have agreed our planet needs — ton by ton, and step by step.