University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
Energy Transition Lab

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.

Two Americas: Day Three of COP23

November 8, 2017Barb JacobsUncategorizedComments Off on Two Americas: Day Three of 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.

Today we heard the views of a majority of Americans, compared to the position of our federal administration, on climate change and clean energy. We know that a majority of Americans think global warming is real, that government should take action on it, and that as a nation we should support development of clean renewable energy. (See for reference Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and recent Gallup polls, among other studies). We also know that the Trump administration plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and to send representatives to COP23 to promote fossil fuels.

In contrast, the U.S. People’s Delegation was created to give voice at COP23 to community and grassroots leaders around the United States who support not only the Paris Agreement, but also an aggressive agenda for moving to 100% clean energy. As a member of the Climate Generation delegation, I was…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.

University of Minnesota Solar Development Roadmap

October 10, 2017Megan ButlerFeatured, UncategorizedComments Off on University of Minnesota Solar Development Roadmap

University of Minnesota Campus Development Roadmap

Solar energy provides Universities with the opportunities to expand experiential learning and research, diversity and increase the resiliency of campus infrastructure, engage alumni, donors and prospective students/faculty, advance sustainability goals, and enjoy monetary savings. In 2015, the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab created the SUN Delegation with guidance from MREA and Institute on the Environment. Between 2015 and 2017, the Delegation worked with University staff and faculty to identify pathways to invest in solar energy. These efforts were an instrumental catalyst in encouraging University decision makers to invest in solar. Since the SUN Delegation was formed in 2015 the University has taken the following steps to invest in solar:

Community Solar Gardens (CSG): In 2016, the University subscribed to two megawatts (MW) of solar power from a CSG developed by Geronimo Energy. This investment will save the University approximately $800,000 and offset ~55,300 metric tons of greenhouse gases over 25 years. In 2017, UMN subscribed to a total of 22.5 additional MW. The additional subscriptions are expected to produce 1,095,187,000 kWh of electricity and generate $35,661,070 in savings over 25 years.

On-Site Solar: Ameresco, Inc will install 2.255 MW of solar panels on the Twin Cities campus. The University’s new Bell Museum will also include several small educational solar arrays. Delegation students also developed a transportable solar testbed that students will be able to use on campus.

Duluth Campus Student Services Fee:  UMD students successfully petitioned and received $100,000 from the Duluth Campus Student Services Fee and another $50,000 from UMD’s Revolving Loan Fund. The funds will be used to install an 11kW PV array on campus in 2016.

Xcel Energy Renewable Connect: UMN recently signed up to participate in Xcel Energy’s program, which allows ratepayers to subscribe to energy produced from wind and solar.

The University recognizes this as a step forward towards sustainability and a wise financial investment.

Benefits of Solar

In addition these investments are expected to have a number of benefits over time:

Cost Savings:  Financial viability was a major factor that stakeholders at the University considered when deciding whether or not to invest in solar. The University expects to enjoy a positive ROI on solar investments. In addition, diversifying its energy portfolio allows the University to improve its resilience against foreseen and unforeseen energy price changes that may occur in the future.

Sustainability: Encouraging solar on campus has provided valuable opportunities to improve the University of Minnesota’s leadership in sustainability. The University of Minnesota recognizes climate change as one of the grand challenges humanity will have to overcome in the 21st century and is dedicated to research and is “driven to discover” new knowledge and solutions for the world. Renewable energy technology, combined with energy reduction strategies, have a huge potential to mitigate climate change without sacrificing our quality of life.

Educational Value: Solar arrays will advance research and education at the University. Data produced from a solar array and weather stations will allow researchers to create and enhance photovoltaic system models. The solar arrays would also allow educational site visits for classes and student groups across the University. In addition, this work has helped to make University of Minnesota a pioneer in university solar investment. For example, there are no case studies in existence of other universities who have a CSG subscription of more than one MW. The University of Minnesota is a pioneer in this endeavor.

Support for Research: Participation in the Solar Endowment program provided additional resources and legitimacy to students and faculty interested in solar. For example, students encouraged the University to consider opportunities for solar projects aimed at generating low carbon energy while providing valuable pollinator habitat. 

Positive Public Image: Solar investment will increase the visibility of the University’s position as a leading institution on clean energy and combating climate change. While efforts such as energy efficiency and the CHP project have also had a tremendous effect on the campus’ carbon emissions, the visibility of solar panels will help the University to demonstrate a public commitment to sustainability. This could potentially help the University recruit sustainability-minded students and donors.

The University of Minnesota Campus PV Development Roadmap describes the process that UMN students, faculty and staff undertook to investigate and invest in solar. The SUN Delegation compiled this roadmap to guide other higher education institutions considering a path to solar.

Read the Campus Roadmap



Don’t Miss These Upcoming Energy Transition Events!

July 20, 2017Megan ButlerEvents, UncategorizedComments Off on Don’t Miss These Upcoming Energy Transition Events!

Photo Credit: CERTS 

MREA Energy Fair                        St. Paul, Minnesota            Sept 9-10, 2017

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) is hosting its first Energy Fair in St. Paul, Minnesota this September. The Energy Fair brings people together to learn about clean energy and sustainable and to connect with others. The fair provides fun for the whole family and will feature interactive workshops, exhibits, live music, local food, and inspiring keynote speakers. Exhibits will focus on sustainable living and clean energy products. Workshops will focus on sustainable living, energy efficiency, renewable energy and more! Click here to learn more about the Energy fair!

Midwest Energy Storage Summit   Minneapolis, Minnesota     Sept 15, 2017

The University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab, in partnership with the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance, will host the Midwest Energy Storage Summit on Friday, September 15, 2017, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Summit will include over 300 participants from throughout the Midwest representing energy leaders from industry, the public sector, academia and non-profit sectors. The goal of the Midwest Energy Storage Summit is to gather energy stakeholders from a variety of sectors in order to reach a shared understanding of energy storage trends, opportunities, and barriers in our region and nationally.  We will connect Midwesterners to learn from each other and explore opportunities for regional cooperation. Click here to learn more about the Midwest Energy Storage Summit.

Register For the Summit Today

2017 OATI Energy Conference    Minneapolis, Minnesota    Sept 19-21, 2017

Energy Transition Lab Executive Director Ellen Anderson will be providing the keynote address at the SPARK 2017 OATI Energy Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Anderson will be speaking about grid modernization. Conference Attendees will learn about the evolving energy industry and have the opportunity to network with top leaders and professionals in the industry. Click here to learn more and register for the OATI Energy Conference

Energy Transition Lab at Energy Storage North America 2017

July 20, 2017Megan ButlerEvents, MESA, UncategorizedComments Off on Energy Transition Lab at Energy Storage North America 2017

Ellen Anderson Speaking at Energy Transition Lab’s Energy Storage Summit

Energy Transition Lab Executive Director Ellen Anderson will be speaking at Energy Storage North America (ENSA) about how Minnesota has worked to optimize existing transmission distribution and generation assets with storage.

Ellen Anderson will join Brian Burandt of Connexus Energy, Ed Burgess of Strategen Consulting, and Jessica Harrison of MISO for a discussion detailing Minnesota stakeholders’ efforts to evaluate the value of storage across grid generation, transmission, and distribution domains and jumpstart the local energy storage market. The presentation will review key model findings on the cost-benefits of storage to Minnesota’s grid, update attendees on energy storage RFPs, and detail next steps to engage in this emerging market.

Read more →

Midwest Energy Storage Summit 9-15-17: Video, Slides & More

The University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab, in partnership with the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance, hosted the Midwest Energy Storage Summit on Friday, September 15, 2017, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Summit included over 300 participants from throughout the Midwest representing energy leaders from industry, the public sector, academia and non-profit sectors.

Thank you to all our participants and sponsors!

About the Midwest Energy Storage Summit

Our energy systems are undergoing a significant transition, and energy storage is linchpin for a more flexible, resilient, reliable, efficient, and low carbon grid.  Whether considering grid or distribution scale or customer applications, furthering deployment of storage in the Midwest will require an integrated, collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach, as well as a deep understanding of technology advancements and the market and regulatory environments.  

The goal of the Midwest Energy Storage Summit was to gather energy stakeholders from a variety of sectors in order to reach a shared understanding of energy storage trends, opportunities, and barriers in our region and nationally.  We connected Midwesterners to learn from each other and explore opportunities for regional cooperation.  Goals of the conference included:

  • Understanding MISO operations and rules relating to energy storage and current and future implications for the regional grid;
  • Learning about storage from different perspectives, including 
    • Policy and regulatory pathways,
    • The role of research in bringing technology to market, and
    • Implementation – how “doers” get projects off the ground; and
  • Capitalizing on networking and collaboration opportunities.

Click here for more information about Summit lodging and transportation 

Kilowatt Sponsors

Fresh Energy

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

PAR Energy Solutions


Union of Concerned Scientists 

Supporting Partner: Midwestern Governors Association

Media Sponsor: Midwest Energy News

Become a Midwest Energy Storage Summit sponsor today! 

Attend MESA’s First Hot Topic Brown Bag: Assessing the Capacity Value of Energy Storage

June 23, 2016Megan ButlerEvents, MESA, UncategorizedComments Off on Attend MESA’s First Hot Topic Brown Bag: Assessing the Capacity Value of Energy Storage


The Energy Transition Lab Invites You to Attend MESA’s First Hot Topic Brown Bag: Assessing the Capacity Value of Energy Storage

Register Today

You are invited to attend the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance– MESA’s first Hot Topic Brown Bag Lunch discussion on assessing the capacity value of Energy Storage. The discussion will focus on how to best assess the value of energy storage as it relates to capacity resource adequacy in Minnesota, how capacity planning and adequacy is conducted at both the MISO level and the distribution utility level, and approaches that have been used for renewable resources (wind/solar) that may be applicable to energy storage. Discussion leaders will include Rao Konidena (MISO), John Reinhart (MISO), Alan Gleckner (Fresh Energy), John Frederick (Energy Storage Consultant), and a representative from Xcel Energy.

This event is intended to be first in a series of Hot Topics on Storage, where energy enthusiasts can indulge their inner energy geek and engage in an in-depth, informal conversation with experts.

Time and Place: This event will be held from 11:30 to 1:30 on Monday, July 11 at the University of Minnesota Law School Room 50. The Law School, Mondale Hall, is at 229 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis, 55455.

Getting here:  We are located near the West Bank light rail stop on the Green Line.  From the stop, go up the stairs/elevator to 19th Avenue, turn right, and walk to the nearest building on your right, which is Mondale Hall. The University of Minnesota Law School is located on several Metro Transit bus routes including routes 23 7 and 22 as well as the University of Minnesota’s Campus Connector. By car, parking in pay lots at Mondale Hall is available at a variety of locations on the U of M West Bank campus including: Surface Lot C86, north of Mondale Hall, the 19th Ave. Ramp and the 21st Ave. Ramp.  

This will be a brown bag lunch event. MESA will provide beverages and cookies but please bring your own lunch. Some suggestions for locations nearby to pickup a take out lunch include:

This event is free and open to all interested, so feel free to invite friends or colleagues

Register Today

Featured Image Photo Credit: Sandia Labs


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