CEE receives McKnight grant to help improve utility business models

Jul 11, 2016

The McKnight Foundation has granted $350,000 over two years to the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) to:
  • Ramp up efforts toward better business models among Minnesota’s cooperative and municipal electrical utilities,
  • Provide technical assistance to utility regulators in the Midwest, and
  • Undertake a pilot project to identify and assess the potential for targeted, location-based clean energy programs and investments to defer utility infrastructure investments.
The funded work will build on the e21 Initiative that CEE co-directs with the Great Plains Institute. Helping to forge an energy system for the 21st century, e21 is a multi-stakeholder effort to develop recommendations for investor-owned electric utilities — such as Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, and Otter Tail Power — to better adapt to a rapidly changing, more distributed utility industry. The initiative’s goal is to help develop an energy system that aligns a financially viable utility business model with increasing customer expectations and evolving policy goals, such as reducing carbon emissions from the power sector.

Building on e21’s progress, CEE will direct McKnight’s support to broaden existing e21-related collaborations while elevating new opportunities.

CEE will continue to focus efforts on transforming utility business models to make power generation more energy-efficient, more responsive to customer needs, and better able to respond to changing underlying market dynamics such as decentralization, lower growth in energy usage, and environmental imperatives. CEE will explore and devise solutions for the unique challenges faced by cooperative and municipal utilities in adapting to new models. Staff also plans to work with Xcel Energy to assess opportunities for location-specific clean energy investments and programs, and work with the region’s utility regulators in adapting to industry changes.

This grant builds on prior McKnight support for CEE to develop energy efficiency and carbon-reduction options for Destination Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota, and development of Energy Fit Homes, a certification program designed for existing homes that focuses on cost-effective and practical efficiency upgrades.