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Energy Transition Lab

IonE Director Jessica Hellman experiences the German Energiewende Firsthand

IonE director Jessica Hellman recently returned from the 2018 Berlin Seminar on Energy Policy. The seminar, facilitated by Sabine Engel, IonE director of international partnerships, brought a delegation of Minnesotans to Germany to learn about the country’s transition to renewable energy. To read more about Jessica’s experiences with the seminar, click here.

ETL Director Ellen Anderson and other IonE Fellows Receive LCCMR Funding

Five IonE fellows, including ETL director Ellen Anderson, were recently awarded funding from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) to work on sustainability initiatives. The $550,000 grant that Ellen received will go towards a project on community-scale energy storage for renewable energy. To read more about this project and the other IonE fellows’ LCCMR funded initiatives, click here.

Power Shift Series: Managing Dynamic Change in the Midwestern Power Sector

April 19, 2018Barb JacobsETL Blog, EventsComments Off on Power Shift Series: Managing Dynamic Change in the Midwestern Power Sector

On December 1, 2017, the University of Minnesota Law School co-hosted an event with the Nicholas Institute at Duke, UNC’s Center for Climate, Energy, Environment and Economics, and Harvard Law’s Environmental & Energy Law Program. “Managing Dynamic Change in the Midwestern Power Sector” is part of the Power Shift Series, which convenes experts in the academic, business and government sectors to discuss grid changes, pose related legal questions, and foster a research agenda for power policy reform.

You can read the proceedings here. Participation in December’s Power Shift included ETL’s Ellen Anderson.

COP23 Day 6

November 11, 2017Barb JacobsETL Blog, UncategorizedComments Off on COP23 Day 6

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

As I write my final blog of the week, I’ll focus on two topics.

100% Renewable Energy

First, to conclude the 100% renewable energy discussion, I highlight Vaxjo, Sweden and Costa Rica, as well as an important research paper.  Vaxjo is Duluth’s sister city, and they share a similar population around 90,000 and an outdoorsy setting with beautiful lakes.  Vaxjo’s lakes were heavily polluted in the 1970’s, and the search for solutions led to a political decision in 1996 to go “fossil fuel free.”  The city now produces about 66% of its energy from renewable sources, including for heat.  Besides energy efficiency they make use of abundant forest products to produce bioenergy.

Costa Rica is on its way to 100% renewable electricity by 2030, and adding other sector goals.  Minister William Calvo said they were paying fossil fuel companies not to produce power, which is an interesting approach to compensating for stranded assets.

Earlier this week the Lappeenranta University of Technology and the Energy Watch Group presented a new study which models a global transition to 100% renewable electricity.  Hans-Josef Fell, a former member of the German Parliament, explained this modeling is unique in that it modeled hourly energy demand, and showed that existing renewable energy potential and technologies, including storage, can generate sufficient and secure power to cover the entire global electricity demand by 2050 – or sooner if a supportive policy and regulatory framework is in place.

Managing the Grid for Carbon

Today is “energy day” at the U.S. Climate Action Pavilion, which was funded by Michael Bloomberg to fill the gap left by the U.S. government’s absence.  This is the first COP in history in which the U.S. has not hosted a pavilion to share information with COP attendees.

This morning I learned about new software that can solve an important grid issue.  Researchers have analyzed energy data from our regional grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and found that even with a large and growing share of wind energy, there are many times of the day or night in which the grid emits high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.  See a recent University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment research paper on this.  This is important for users of energy storage batteries and electric vehicles.

New software can automatically program energy – for charging stationary batteries or EV’s – that is both cheap and low-carbon, using real-time automatic analysis of what marginal resource is on the grid.  As one speaker said, this is a clarion call for open data.  Without access to grid utility data, we can’t field this software.  Europe & North America have this information available to a certain extent but other countries don’t.  As India moves to ban internal combustion engines, it will make an enormous difference in meeting Paris Agreement targets whether users are charging them at low-carbon times or not.  The software developers claim that using this program in the US will be equivalent to taking 8 million cars off the road in terms of carbon reduction.

There is so much else I would like to write about, but I’m out of time.  This week has been an amazing amalgam of ideas, inspiration, and examples.  Today’s talk by former Vice President Al Gore covered the spectrum from the stark scientific and meteorological data – crushingly dire and depressing – to all the reasons for hope.  A global transition to clean energy is not only possible but inevitable.  This continuum describes my COP23 experience, as I depart Germany imbued with more knowledge, information, and examples, and more hope for progress.

100% Renewable Energy: COP23 Day #5

November 10, 2017Barb JacobsETL Blog, UncategorizedComments Off on 100% Renewable Energy: COP23 Day #5

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

Today I spent my day at a conference at the German Environment Ministry, just 2 train stops from the COP23 meeting. “The Local Dimension of the NDCs:  100% Renewable Energy” was co-sponsored by the Ministry and organizations committed to 100% renewable energy target.  One sponsor, ICLEI, is a global network of 1500 sustainable cities including Duluth, St. Paul, and Minneapolis.

The predominant theme of the day was that local community-scale activities on carbon emissions and renewable energy are the most important strategy to reach the Paris Agreement NDC pledges, and that 100% renewable energy is an attainable target over time.  Harry Lehman, a leader in the German government who has visited Minnesota several times, commented that Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 35% is an accomplishment given the challenges Germany is facing. He talked about the next challenge in renewable energy, in which “big” players could…click here to continue reading.

Drinking from the Firehose: COP23 Day #4

November 9, 2017Barb JacobsETL BlogComments Off on Drinking from the Firehose: COP23 Day #4

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

There are so many different levels at which you can interact at COP23.

My goals in attending were 1) to share the story of Minnesota’s clean energy leadership as a successful model, 2) to help explain to the rest of the world that thousands of Americans at the city, state, corporate, university, and individual level are still moving forward toward the Paris Agreement goals, with or without the support of the federal government, and 3) to learn as much as I can from the incredible resource of people here, in ways that will benefit our energy transition work at the University of Minnesota.

There are some 25,000 energy and climate experts from virtually every nation in the world here and more events than you can possibly attend. Today, I...click here to read more.

 

 

ETL Featured Member of US People’s Delegation Press Conference at COP23

November 8, 2017Barb JacobsETL BlogComments Off on ETL Featured Member of US People’s Delegation Press Conference at COP23

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

Yesterday, IonE’s Energy Transition Lab director Ellen Anderson was a featured member of the U.S. People’s Delegation press conference. Climate Generation joined this larger coalition of delegations to help demonstrate that the United States is showing up at the talks, despite the lack of federal action on climate change. Individuals on the press conference panel shared the progress happening for climate action within their scopes, as well as the official action demands of the People’s Delegation at COP23. Among them is a just and equitable transition to 100% renewable energy in all cities and states, a halt to all new fossil fuel projects, the call for nations to…click here to continue reading and watch video of press conference!

The Road Map to Bonn & COP23

November 7, 2017Barb JacobsETL Blog1

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

After leaving Minnesota on Friday night, I spent almost 24 hours traveling via an Amsterdam layover, Dusseldorf, and finally Bonn, Germany. It is so different to travel in Europe after living in the Midwest. I have clocked more miles on trains and on foot in the last 48 hours than in one month in Minnesota. It is slightly more balmy here, and my charming and tiny one-room apartment overlooks a very tiny and green garden. On Sunday night, our University of Minnesota and Climate Generation delegations met up for the first time at a traditional German restaurant that was already several hundred years old when Beethoven ate there – and the menu probably hasn’t changed: sausage, potatoes, and sauerkraut with good German beer.

All afternoon on Sunday, many of us found our way through Bonn’s beautiful Rhineaue Park to attend a COP23 strategy session with an international gathering of climate non-governmental organizations (NGOs). I was struck by a participant’s simple but emphatic statement – “we are not negotiators” – and therefore must focus on “what science demands of us.” This is an important distinction at a United Nations conference where all action and legal instruments are defined by the negotiating stances, and compromises, reached by nations.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website declares this year’s bold theme: “The UN Climate Change Conference 2017 aims for further, faster ambition together.”

These themes were repeated today by COP23 leaders in the opening sessions, with a combination of aspirational pep talks and dire warnings of the current state of the climate. The session kicked off with inspiring music performances, which we watched from the overflow room. First, dozens of Bonn children led a costumed parade and sang “I’m an island.” Click here to continue reading.

Preview of COP23 – UN Climate Change Conference 2017

November 2, 2017Barb JacobsETL Blog, UncategorizedComments Off on Preview of COP23 – UN Climate Change Conference 2017

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

It’s an honor to attend the COP23 in Bonn, Germany as a member of the University of Minnesota’s official delegation and as a member of the multi-sector Climate Generation delegation. At the U we have official “observer” status for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, as a research institution, and this means we can attend official negotiations. Kind of like at the State Capitol, the official meetings are public, but as the high-level negotiators get closer to final decisions, some sessions are closed. Climate Generation is an education-oriented non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on climate literacy and education along with youth and community engagement, and their mission aligns with our mission at the Energy Transition Lab.

I am attending week one (Nov. 6-10) of the COP23, or the 23rd Conference of the Parties, to focus on energy and climate policy. My goal is to understand the role the United States plays in international climate negotiations in today’s political and policy landscape, to learn from the 197 other countries participating how they are tackling the energy transition, and to share Minnesota’s story of transitioning to a clean energy economy.

It is important for the world to know that the people of the United States are moving forward on climate leadership and clean energy – with or without the support of the federal government. There is hope that we will continue to make progress despite President Trump’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Recent analysis shows that the US will likely meet President Obama’s targets of 26-28% carbon reduction under the Clean Power Plan – even if Pres. Trump repeals it. That’s because the clean energy economy is roaring ahead, wind and solar are now the cheapest energy source, and Americans from all sectors are stepping up to fill the vacuum on national action.

Leadership is coming from the bottom up, led by cities, states, companies, universities and individuals –hundreds & hundreds of them have pledged to uphold the Paris Accord targets. In our state of Minnesota, our policies in the last decade have resulted in 23% renewable electricity and cutting coal powered electricity in half, and we are only getting started. Our largest utility, Xcel, plans to be 85% carbon free and generate 60% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030 (or sooner). We have already met the Clean Power Plan targets, and have demonstrated that we can do this at a low cost while maintaining reliable power. Minnesota is leading the way for the “heartland” of America, showing that you can cut carbon, build out renewable energy, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and save money by shifting to a clean energy economy. In preparation for our trip, many of our Minnesota delegation recently met with Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith (as pictured above). She said our state is completely committed to this clean energy transition, and feels a sense of urgency to move forward faster.

In Minnesota, like elsewhere, we have a lot of work to do to reach state goals of 80% carbon reduction by 2050, or beyond. As we stand with virtually every other country of the world to face this challenge, we acknowledge the urgency and need for greater ambition.

As the COP23 approaches, a very big question looms: what will the official U.S. federal government participation look like? U.S. officials have said they will play a “constructive and positive role.” According to E & E News Service (10/31/17), the U.S. government plans to send a delegation led by a career diplomat, Thomas Shannon, who has called climate change “one of the world’s greatest challenges.” It remains to be seen how the delegation will represent a president who has expressed contrary views.

As I leave for Germany later this week, I will be contemplating the role of policy and leadership in solving the Grand Challenge of climate change and energy transition. Democracy requires elected officials to lead and citizens to hold them accountable, but good citizenship also asks each of us to do our own part. It is remarkable to see how bottom up leadership adds up to make a compelling difference!
For another pre-COP23 perspective, watch my interview with WCCO Anchor Esme Murphy and meteorologist Mike Augustyniak here.

ETL at UN Climate Change Conference Nov 6-11

Energy Transition Lab’s Director Ellen Anderson will be attending the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany from November 6-11. Over 195 countries will come together to negotiate climate change policy and implementation strategies of the Paris Agreement, and Ellen is an official delegate for the University of Minnesota and a member of Climate Generation’s delegation.

There are several ways to keep up-to-date on what’s happening at COP23. Ellen will be blogging daily, which will be posted on ETL’s website, so check back regularly! You can also sign up to get updates from the whole Climate Generation delegation.

We also invite you to join Ellen and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy’s Leigh Curry for a live webinar on Thursday, Nov 9 from 12:00-1:00 PM central time (7:00 PM in Bonn, Germany). More details on how to login to follow!

Follow along on social media with #MNCOP23 and #USPeoplesDelegation at @climategenorg on
Twitter and Facebook.

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