University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
Energy Transition Lab

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



Learn More about the Midwest Energy Storage Summit Speakers

August 3, 2017Megan ButlerEvents, MESAComments Off on Learn More about the Midwest Energy Storage Summit Speakers

Energy Storage Summit Speaker and Moderator List


Mary Powell
Green Mountain Power 

Mary Powell is nationally recognized as an energy visionary, positioning Green Mountain Power as a leading energy transformation company. Mary Powell will be the Keynote Speaker at the Summit and Green Mountain Power was recently featured in this New York Times article for its efforts to rethink carbon-based power systems

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Delivering clean, cost-effective and highly reliable power to customers all across Vermont, GMP offers cutting-edge products and service to reduce costs and carbon.  In 2017, GMP was named one of the top 10 energy companies in the world by Fast Company. GMP has also achieved the top score for mid-sized utilities in the East Region in J.D. Power’s 2016 electric utility residential customer satisfaction study.

Mary has served as president and chief executive officer for GMP since 2008.  She initiated and implemented a strategic and comprehensive restructuring of the company that dramatically transformed GMP, and she has been the backbone of a cultural transformation and service quality improvement.  Fast, fun, and effective is her motto. Under Mary’s leadership, GMP became the first utility in the world to become a certified B Corp, showing a commitment to use energy as a force for good.

Mary has delivered on an ambitious energy vision to provide low-carbon, low-cost and highly reliable power to Vermonters.  As a result, GMP became the first utility to offer to help customers go off-grid, built Vermont’s largest wind farm, made Rutland, Vermont, the Solar Generation Capital of New England, and installed smart grid technology across GMP’s service territory.

In 2012, Mary led the acquisition of Central Vermont Public Service, with a promise to generate $144 million in savings for customers.  GMP has grown from serving 88,000 customers in 2008 to serving over 260,000 customers, with revenues of more than $640 million and $2 billion in assets.

And in 2015, Mary led another partnership with Tesla, with GMP becoming the first utility anywhere to offer customers the Tesla Powerwall battery.

In 2014, Mary was recognized by Powergen as the Woman of the Year, in 2015 The Burlington Free Press named her Vermonter of the Year, in 2016 Fast Company named Mary one of the 100 most creative people in business, and in 2017, Mary was named one of the top 25 Most Influential Women of the Mid-Market by CEO Connection.

Chistopher B. Clark
Xcel Energy– Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota 

Chrisopher Clark is responsable for the strategic plan and financial results of Xcel Energy as well as the company’s customer, community, regulatory legislative and governmental relationships in Minneosta, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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Chris Clark is president of Xcel Energy–Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.  Previously he was regional vice president, Rates and Regulatory Affairs.  Clark joined Xcel Energy in the legal department in 1999 and has more than 20 years of experience in energy and regulation.  He serves on the board of directors for the nonprofit organization People Serving People and is also on the board of directors of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.  Clark is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Drake Law School.

George Crabtree
Joint Center for Energy Storage Research
Argonne National Laboratory

George Crabtree is Director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage (JCESR) at Argonne National Laboratory and Professor of Physics, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC). 

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He has wide experience in next-generation battery technology and integrating energy science, technology, policy and societal decision-making. He has led workshops for the Department of Energy on energy science and technology, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has testified before the U.S. Congress. 

Kelly Speakes-Backman
Chief Executive Officer
Energy Storage Association 

Prior to coming to the Energy Storage Association Kelly Speakes-Backman spent over 20 years working on energy and environmental issues in the public, NGO and private sectors.

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Kelly Speakes-Backman is the first Chief Executive Officer of the Energy Storage Association (ESA), the national trade organization for the energy storage industry. As CEO, she leads the association’s efforts to represent the interests of energy storage in the United States, including policy, external relations, and industry leadership. Prior to joining ESA, Kelly was part of the executive team at Alliance to Save Energy, a premier trade association representing the energy efficiency sector. As the Senior Vice President of Policy and Research, she directed the policy efforts, working closely with industry and policy makers to advance energy efficiency. Kelly has spent more than 20 years working in energy and energy efficiency, sustainability, renewables, and environmental business strategies. Her direct technology experience includes power generation from solar, wind, biogas and biomass, distributed generation, natural gas, smart grid and fuel cells. She joined the public service sector in 2010 as the Clean Energy Director at the Maryland Energy Administration, where she led a team of policy experts and grant administrators to implement programs to meet the Administration’s goal of increasing Maryland’s renewable energy portfolio to 20 percent by 2022. Kelly has testified in Congressional Committees on energy issues, presented regularly at energy industry events and has authored several articles published in energy trade magazines. She also has served on several energy-related steering committees, including the GridWise Alliance (GWA) Grid Modernization Index (GMI) Steering Committee and the SEPA 51st State Initiative. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Boston University.

Ellen Anderson
Executive Director
Energy Transition Lab, University of Minnesota

Prior to coming to the Energy Transition Lab, Ellen Anderson served in the Minnesota Senate, was a senior advisor to Gov. Mark Dayton, and served as chair of the MN Public Utilities Commission.

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From 2012 to 2014, Anderson was senior advisor on energy and environment to Gov. Mark Dayton and assisted the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board on energy and environmental issues. Anderson helped coordinate state climate change planning, led the implementation of Gov. Dayton’s Executive Order 11-32, including organizing the EQB’s Minnesota Environmental Congress, issuing Minnesota’s Environment and Energy Report Card, and initiating and drafting the EQB’s Minnesota and Climate Change: Our Tomorrow Starts Today report.

In March 2011 Gov. Dayton appointed Anderson chair of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, where she served until early 2012.

Anderson served in the Minnesota Senate from 1993 to 2011 and was re-elected five times, representing several neighborhoods of St. Paul and the city of Falcon Heights.  She chaired the Jobs, Energy and Community Development Committee; the Commerce Committee; the Energy and Telecommunications Committee; and the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Finance Committee. Her signature legislation includes the Renewable Energy Standard, the Community Based Energy Development law, the Next Generation Energy Act, and many other energy and consumer protection laws, including a law raising the minimum wage; the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment (co-author); the Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Act; and the first law in the nation, now in federal law, protecting nursing mothers in the workplace.

Anderson holds a B.A. from Carleton College and J.D. cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School. She was an adjunct faculty member at Metropolitan State University and the University of Minnesota, teaching courses in law, energy, and sustainability. She has served in numerous leadership and community volunteer positions and received dozens of awards for her leadership in energy, environment, and economic and social justice. Most recently, Anderson received the 2013 Ecological Society of America Regional Policy Award for Informing Policy with Ecological Science and served on the advisory committee for the 2014 Midwest Innovation Summit. She currently serves as a member of the Citizens League Electrical Energy Study Committee, an observer to the e21 project on new utility business models, and the advisory boards for the U of MN Joint Degree Program in Law, Science & Technology, and the Will Steger Foundation.

Eray S. Aydil
Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science 
University of Minnesota 

Dr. Eray S. Aydil is the Ronald L. and Janet A. Christenson Chair in Renewable Energy. 

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He received his B.S. degrees in chemical engineering and in materials science, both from U. C. Berkeley in 1986. He received his Ph.D. degree in chemical engineering in 1991 from the University of Houston. He was a postdoc at Bell Labs until 1993 and Professor at the University of California Santa Barbara until 2005. His research interests range from plasma science and technology and thin films to nanomaterials and solar cells. He has published over 200 articles and holds 7 patents. In recognition of his research, he has received the Peter Mark Award and the Plasma Prize from the American Vacuum Society (AVS), the Norman Hackerman Young Author Award of the Electrochemical Society, the National Young Investigator Award of the National Science Foundation, and the Camille-Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award. He is the recipient of a 2017 Distinguished Teaching Award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate and Professional Education at the University of Minnesota and is a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers. He is a Fellow of the AVS and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology. He is a Fellow of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment.

Ed Burgess
Senior Manager
Strategen Consulting 

Ed helps to lead Strategen’s utility and government consulting practices. He specializes in evaluation and design of policies and programs to advance deployment distributed energy resources, demand-side management programs, energy storage and grid integration of renewable energy. 

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Ed has served clients in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, including several Fortune 500 companies, major energy project developers, trade associations, utilities, government agencies, universities, and foundations. His analysis has helped to guide regulations and policies in many states across the country and given companies strategic insight into clean energy investment opportunities. Prior to joining Strategen, Ed worked as an independent consultant where he provided technical analysis to a law firm in Arizona, supporting the firm’s clients in cases before the Arizona Corporation Commission. He also worked with Schlegel & Associates to provide technical analysis on demand-side management policies in Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania and several other states. Ed also played a lead role in two major initiatives at Arizona State University: The Utility of the Future Center and the Energy Policy Innovation Council where he conducted research and policy analysis for the Governor’s Office of Energy Policy, the Department of Environmental Quality, and other major stakeholders in Arizona. At the Utility of the Future Center, he also worked with utilities and former utility Commissioners across the country to develop a strategic approach and model rules for transitioning to a distributed energy future. Ed earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Princeton University and two degrees from Arizona State University – Master of Science (M.S.) in Sustainability and Professional Science Master (P.S.M.) of Solar Energy Engineering and Commercialization.

Christopher Clack
Founder, CEO
Vibrant Clean Energy  

Dr. Clack is an expert in Renewable Energy, Atmospheric Science, Energy Modeling, Computer Programming, and Optimization. Dr. Clack recently collaborated with the Energy Transition Lab and Strategen Consulting to conduct an analysis of the energy storage opportunities that exist in Minnesota.

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Dr. Clack is the founder and CEO of Vibrant Clean Energy, LLC (VCE) a software and intelligent services company that focuses on optimization techniques and renewable energy integration into the electricity grid. VCE has produced the world’s first continental-scale energy modeling optimization tool that resolves at high temporal- and spatial- resolution. The flagship tool is known as WIS:dom and was built by Dr. Clack from the ground up to simultaneously consider weather-driven renewables, storage, DERs, transmission, and dispatch using big-data. VCE works with industry, government, and academia to accelerate adoption of efficient planning for a shifting energy paradigm. Dr. Clack is an expert in Renewable Energy, Atmospheric Science, Energy Modeling, Computer Programming, and Optimization. Prior to founding VCE, Dr. Clack was a research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder working with the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) NOAA for half a decade leading the development of the NEWS simulator. Before that, he was a postdoctoral fellow with the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Clack received his first-class BSc (Hons) in mathematics and statistics for the University of Manchester, UK. He then went on to research applied mathematics and plasma physics at the University of Sheffield, UK. During his PhD, Dr. Clack completed an area of study centered on nonlinear resonance theory within the framework of magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) that remained unsolved for twenty years. The theories derived have helped our understanding of the Sun as well as possibilities for fusion reactors, such as ITER. 

Lin Franks
Senior Strategist, RTO, FERC & Compliance Initiatives
Indianapolis Power & Light Company

Ms. Franks has worked towards the creation of appropriate FERC and RTO tariff and business practice rules to incent interconnection of batteries with the grid.

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Ms. Franks is the Senior Strategist, RTO, FERC & Compliance Initiatives for Indianapolis Power & Light Company (“IPL), an AES company.  As part of IPL’s active engagement with the Midcontinent ISO (MISO) Stakeholder process, she represents IPL for market, reliability and transmission issues. She has over the past three years worked toward the creation of appropriate FERC and RTO tariff and business practices rules to incent interconnection of batteries with the grid.  She spearheaded integration of the first lithium ion battery, IPL’s Harding Street BESS, into MISO.    She also coordinates the drafting and submittal of comments to FERC for all US AES Entities.

Ms. Franks was the sponsor of and Chairman of the Electric and Natural Gas Coordination Task Force from its beginning in 2012 till September 2015. She previously served as the Chair of the MISO Ancillary Services Task Force and as the Chair of the State Ratemaking Study Group, and the Long-Term FTR and Planning Task Force, the Vice Chair of the Interconnection Process Task Force, the Supply Adequacy Working Group and the Stakeholder Governance Working Group.

Ms. Franks has more than forty years industry experience in the United States and Western European energy industries.  Her electricity experience covers real time operations, transmission and generation planning and more.   She has held both line and officer positions in the electricity and natural gas sectors and contributed to the success of the two most notable natural gas hubs/market centers in the world, Henry Hub and Zeebrugge. Her natural gas experience includes designing and drilling natural gas wells, physical and financial trading of hydrocarbons as well as hub and pipeline operations.  She was a contributing author in a book published by Risk Publication, “The US Power Market” and the March 2000, “Telecommunications Revolution.”  She also contributed to the Energy Publishing Enterprises 2000 publication “Energy Derivatives: Trading Emerging Markets.” 

William Grant
Deputy Commissioner, Division of Energy Resources
Minnesota Department of Commerce 

As Deputy Commissioner of the Energy Resources Division within the Minnesota Department of Commerce, William Grant oversees Utility Planning and Advocacy, Low Income Home Energy Assistance and Weatherization programs, and the State Energy Office.

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Mr. Grant was promoted to Director of the Midwest Office of the Izaak Walton League of America in 1995, and to the position of League Associate Executive Director in 2002.  Mr. Grant directed the League’s advocacy of utility regulatory reform policies to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy in the Upper Midwest beginning in January 1992. Mr. Grant was instrumental in the development of several League publications, including Power to Spare in the Upper Midwest, (with Nancy Lange); Energy Efficiency and Minnesota Jobs: The Employment Impacts of Electric Utility Demand-Side Management Programs, The Landowner’s Guide to Wind Energy in the Upper Midwest, and most recently, License to Pollute: Minnesota Coal Plants and the Dirty Power Loophole. Before joining the League, Mr. Grant spent seven years with the Minnesota Department of Public Service, his responsibilities including review of utility conservation plans, integrated resource plans, and certificate of need filings, and interventions before federal regulatory agencies.  Mr. Grant also spent six months on special assignment to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency where he authored, Carbon Fees to Support Minnesota ReLeaf: Implementation Recommendations, a study of the administrative process for collecting a carbon tax on emitters to support a statewide tree planting program. Mr. Grant holds a B.A. in political science and history from Macalester College in St. Paul (1979), and his Masters in Public Administration from Hamline University, St. Paul (1995).

Mike Gregerson
Energy Infrastructure Program Consultant
Great Plains Institute

Mike Gregerson has over 30 years of management, executive and consulting experience in the electric utility arena including environmental and regulatory affairs, customer service and energy policy negotiations. 

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 As an energy policy consultant, Mike has worked to advance clean energy initiatives, electric transmission and also worked with aboriginal First Nation tribes in Manitoba, Canada to resolve hydro electric development impacts. As VP of Customer Care for Xcel Energy, he managed customer billing, call centers and credit operations for 3 million electric and gas customers. As Director of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs for Northern States Power (now a unit of Xcel Energy), he led company efforts to deal with acid rain, hazardous waste disposal, power plant and high voltage transmission line impact issues. Gregerson holds a BS degree in engineering and Master of Public Health degree from the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Imre Gyuk
Director of Energy Storage Research
Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, US Department of Energy

Dr. Gyuk has managed the Electrical Energy Storage research program in the Office of Electricity for the past 12 years. 

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After taking a B.S. from Fordham University, Dr. Gyuk did graduate work at Brown University on Superconductivity. Having received a Ph.D. in Theoretical Particle Physics from Purdue University he became a Research Associate at Syracuse. As an Assistant Professor, he taught Physics, Civil Engineering, and Environmental Architecture at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Gyuk became an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at Kuwait University where he became interested in issues of sustainability. Dr. Gyuk joined the Department of Energy to manage the Thermal and Physical Storage program. For the past 12 years, he has directed the Electrical Energy Storage research program in the Office of Electricity developing a wide portfolio of storage technologies for a broad spectrum of applications. He supervised the $185M ARRA stimulus funding for Grid Scale Energy Storage Demonstrations and is now partnering with the States on storage projects for grid resilience. His work has led to 10 R&D 100 awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award. He is internationally recognized as a leader in the energy storage field.

Jessica Hellmann
Institute on the Environment (IonE), University of Minnesota

Jessica Hellmann provides overall strategic leadership for IonE, an internationally recognized organization working to solve grand environmental challenges. 

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Jessica Hellmann is the director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. She provides overall strategic leadership for the institute, an internationally recognized organization working to solve grand environmental challenges while promoting interdisciplinary research, teaching and leadership across the university and engaging external partners and stakeholders. She is also the Russell M. and Elizabeth M. Bennett Chair in Excellence in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in the College of Biological Sciences.

Hellmann’s research focuses on global change ecology and climate adaptation. She was among the first to propose and study ways to reduce the impact of climate change through new techniques in conservation management. Hellmann led an important paradigm shift in ecology and natural resource management by showing that adaptation — living with climate change — is just as crucial to the future of humanity and Earth’s ecosystems as slowing and stopping greenhouse gas emissions. Her research and that of her students also has shown that differences in the way populations respond to climate change are key to predicting and managing their future.

Hellmann regularly counsels state and national governments on habitat management, restoration and endangered species conservation so future generations can enjoy the beauty and function of nature as we do today. In addition, building upon her seminal findings in ecology, Hellmann has extended her work on climate change adaptation to human systems, including health, infrastructure, food and water. She works with governments and corporations to build investment in climate change adaptation and co-authored several climate assessment and adaptation planning efforts, including the biodiversity and ecosystem portions of the Chicago Climate Action Plan and the 2014 National Climate Assessment. She sits on the Board of Directors of the Great Plains Institute, the Science Advisory Council of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, and the Visiting Committee of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources.

Before coming to the University of Minnesota in 2015, Hellmann was on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame in the Department of Biological Sciences. She also served as research director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, which assesses and ranks the vulnerability of nations around the world to climate change and their readiness to adapt to climate change. She continues to collaborate with ND-GAIN as a core research member, mentoring several ND-GAIN researchers based at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere around the country. In addition, she led the climate change adaptation program at Notre Dame’sEnvironmental Change Initiative and directed GLOBES, an interdisciplinary graduate training program in environment and society, among numerous other high-level academic and scientific responsibilities. She also founded Notre Dame’s undergraduate minor in sustainability.

Hellmann earned her Ph.D. in biology from Stanford University and served as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation and the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Biodiversity Research. She is an alumna of Stanford’s Leopold Leadership Program and a recipient of a career enhancement fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. She became a member of the Notre Dame faculty in 2003.

Hellmann is a frequent contributor to leading scientific journals such as Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, BioScience and PLOS ONE. She serves on the editorial board of the journal Evolutionary Applications, is an associate editor with both Conservation Biology and Elementa, and serves on committees for the Ecological Society of America, the College Board and the National Academy of Sciences.

A skilled science communicator, Hellmann is routinely called upon by leading media outlets around the world such as CNN, NPR, Fox News, The Telegraph and the Chicago Tribune to provide expert input on topics related to global change and ways to minimize adverse impacts to people and nature.

Originally from Indiana and Michigan, Hellmann enjoys a wide range of activities, including marathoning, traveling the world, exploring the Midwest, gardening and spending quiet time with her husband and daughter.

Alexandra B. Klass
Distinguished McKnight University Professor
University of Minnesota Law School 

As a Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School Alexandra Klass teaches and writes in the areas of energy law, environmental law, natural resources law, tort law, and property law.

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Her recent scholarly work, published in many of the nation’s leading law journals, addresses regulatory challenges to integrating more renewable energy into the nation’s electric transmission grid, siting and eminent domain issues surrounding interstate electric transmission lines and oil and gas pipelines, and applications of the public trust doctrine to modern environmental law challenges. She is a co-author of Energy Law and Policy (West Academic Publishing 2015) (with Davies, Osofsky, Tomain, and Wilson), The Practice and Policy of Environmental Law (Foundation Press, 4th ed. 2017) (with Ruhl, Salzman, and Nagle) and Energy Law: Concepts and Insights (Foundation Press 2017) (with Hannah Wiseman). Prior to her teaching career, Professor Klass was a partner at Dorsey & Whitney LLP in Minneapolis, where she specialized in environmental law and land use litigation. She received her B.A. from the University of Michigan and her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School. She was a law clerk to the Honorable Barbara B. Crabb, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. She is a member scholar at the Center for Progressive Reform and a Fellow and Advisory Board member at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. She served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Minnesota Law School from 2010-2012. She was a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School in 2015.

Bradley Klein
Senior Attorney
Environmental Law & Policy Center

As a senior attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Bradley Klein works on renewable energy and clean water litigation and policy. 

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Brad specializes in policies to support solar, storage, and other distributed energy resources, and has worked on interconnection and net metering standards, solar program design, clean energy financing, rate design and other policies at state legislatures and utility commissions across the Midwest. Brad previously served as a federal judicial law clerk in Washington, D.C., a law fellow at the Environmental Law Institute, and an environmental engineer at CH2M Hill, Inc. Brad received his law degree with honors from New York University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis.


David Kolata
Executive Director
Citizens Utility Board, Illinois

The Citizens Utility Board has been called the “gold standard of consumer groups nationwide” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 

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David Kolata started at CUB in 2001 as a senior policy analyst, moving to director of policy and government affairs in 2003.  He was named Executive Director in September 2005. Prior to joining CUB, he was a policy analyst for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, where he focused on transportation and energy issues. David is a 1991 graduate of the University of Notre Dame.  He received a master’s degree in political science from the University of Toronto in 1993, and a Ph.D. in the same subject from Vanderbilt University in 2003. He is a board member of the Illinois Environmental Council. 

Nancy Lange
Chair, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
Chair, Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment, NARUC
Chair, Midcontinent States Environmental and Energy Regulators

Nancy Lange was appointed Commissioner to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission by Governor Mark Dayton, effective March 4, 2013, and appointed Chair, January 23, 2017.

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Chair Lange is a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and is Chair of its Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment. She also serves on the NARUC Committee on Washington Action. Chair Lange is a member of the Midcontinent States Environmental and Energy Regulators (MSEER) group and currently serves as its Chair. She also serves as a member of the Mid-America Regulatory Conference (MARC). Prior to her appointment, Chair Lange served as Manager of Policy and Engagement at the Center for Energy and Environment. Ms. Lange holds a B.S. from Iowa State University and M.A. in Public Policy from the University of Minnesota. Her term will expire on January 7, 2019.

Clair Moeller
Executive Vice President, Operations

As an executive leader of the office of the Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Moeller is responsible for MISO’s transmission planning functions and transmission services. He is a well-respected industry expert with more than 25 years of experience in the operation of power systems in the Upper Midwest.

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Mr. Moeller is skilled at identifying and implementing best practices in transmission planning and operations. His current focus is infrastructure planning in collaboration with the utilities that serve the 15 states and one Canadian province that comprise the MISO region. Under his guidance, transmission planners in the region have begun to explore transmission infrastructure value by utilizing techniques borrowed from generation and strategic planners in an effort to give policymakers context for the decisions they will face as the electric energy future unfolds. Mr. Moeller completed the Oxford Advanced Management and Leadership course at Oxford Said Business School, the Executive Management program at the Carlson School of Business, University of Minnesota, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Iowa State University. 

Lissa Pawlisch
RSDP Director 
University of Minnesota Clean Energy Research Teams 

Lissa Pawlisch is the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Director for the University of Minnesota Extension’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships.

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 Over the past thirteen years she has guided CERTs—a unique program partnership designed to connect individuals and communities to the resources they need to identify and implement community scale clean energy projects.

Phyllis Reha
PAR Energy Solutions 

Reha served as a Commissioner of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for a dozen years. While on the Commission, she was appointed to and served on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), Chair of the Energy Resources and Environment Committee, and as a key member of the NARUC-Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Collaborative on Smart Response which is the venue for State and federal regulators to discuss issues and make recommendations for State and federal policies to support both smart grid and demand response.

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She has served as a member on the Advisory Councils for multiple organizations including the National Council on Electricity Policy, the New Mexico State University Center for Public Utilities, and the Financial Research Institute of the University of Missouri. United States Department of Energy Secretary Chu appointed her to the Electricity Advisory Committee. Currently Principal of PAR Energy Solutions LLC, she is a sought after speaker for conferences discussing transformation of the utility business model. Contact Info:; 651.405.6885 

Brett Simon
Energy Storage Analyst 
GTM Research/Greentech Media  

Brett Simon is an energy storage analyst at GTM Research, focusing on both U.S. and international behind-the-meter energy storage markets.

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Prior to joining GTM, Brett earned a Master of Science degree in sustainable systems at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment. He first became interested in energy storage systems and their potential to revolutionize the energy sector through his coursework and master’s project. Brett also holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and environmental studies from New York University.


Ken Smith
President and CEO
Evergreen Energy 

Ken Smith, PE, MBA was named the president and CEO of Ever-Green Energy and District Energy St. Paul in 2010. A recognized leader in community and campus scale energy systems, Ken is actively engaged in industry, policy, and academic forums addressing our energy future.

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Mr. Smith is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and is regularly requested to brief local, state, and federal planners, policy makers and regulators. Over the past 5 years, Smith
has participated in an energy policy exchange between Germany and the State of Minnesota. Prior to joining Ever-Green Energy in 2006, Smith worked globally in the engineering and construction industry for over 20 years: planning, designing and implementing highly reliable energy projects, including central plants, micro-grids, datacenters, and other mission critical facilities for advanced tech industry, campuses, international airports, and U.S. Department of Defense. Smith currently serves as vice president of the Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System Board of Directors (M-RETS); executive board member of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce; and is a Fellow of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE). From 2014-2015 he served as Chair of the International District Energy Association board of
directors. He has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from North Dakota State University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, MN. Smith is a registered professional engineer in several U.S. states.


HSoholtBBeth Soholt
Executive Director
Wind on the Wires

Beth Soholt is the Executive Director of the non-profit organization Wind on the Wires (WOW). WOW is the Midwest’s premier organization focused on significantly expanding the penetration of wind power and overcoming the barriers to bringing wind power to market.

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 Lunched in 2001, WOW members include non-profit clean energy and environmental advocacy organizations, wind developers, wind turbine manufacturers, tribal representatives, and business that provide goods and services to the wind industry. The WOW footprint covers 9 states that stretch from the Dakotas to Indiana. WOW is a key regional partner of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the groups work closely together to advance wind power development and transmission issues in the Midwest. Beth is responsible for guiding WOW’s work in the areas of transmission planning, state regulatory proceedings, legislative policy, and education/outreach and serves on the board of directors. She holds a seat on the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) Advisory Committee representing the Environmental Sector. Prior to WOW, Beth worked at the Izaak Walton League of America’s Midwest Office on deregulation and regional transmission issues, Mahlum & Associates Law Firm on energy issues, Minnesota State Senate as a senior staff member to Senator Richard Cohen, and Mid-Continent Area Power Pool (MAPP – predecessor to MISO) as staff to the Environmental Committee and Operating Committee. Beth holds a law degree from Hamline University Law School, St. Paul, Minnesota, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Luther College, Decorah, Iowa.

Ted J. Thomas
Chair, Arkansas Public Service Commission
Vice President, Organization of MISO States

Ted Thomas of Conway was appointed Chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission by Governor Asa Hutchinson in January 2015. 

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He has served as Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the 20th Judicial District, Administrative Law Judge at the Public Service Commission, Budget Director for Governor Mike Huckabee and in the Arkansas House of Representatives, where he served as Chairman of the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee during his final term.

Chairman Thomas received a Bachelor of Arts with High Honors in Political Science from the University of Arkansas in 1986 and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1988.  He is licensed to practice law before the United States Supreme Court, the Arkansas Supreme Court, the United States Courts of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the Eight Circuit, and the United States District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas.

Chairman Thomas is Vice President of the Organization of MISO States (OMS) and serves on the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Washington Action Committee and the Committee on Electricity.

Sarah Van Cleve
Energy Policy Advisor

Sarah manages Tesla’s energy storage policy development, collaborating with regulators and legislators on policies affecting the development of energy storage in US electricity markets. 

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She leads Tesla’s policy on various electricity industry issues including resource procurement, integrated resource planning, and wholesale market design. Prior to working at Tesla, Sarah managed energy storage policy at Southern California Edison where she helped guide the utility’s groundbreaking procurement of 264 megawatts of energy storage. Sarah started her career as a financial analyst in electricity and emissions markets working in operations, trading, and market design. She holds a B.A. in Economics from UCLA.


Summit Agenda

Learn more about the Midwest Energy Storage Summit and register today!

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.

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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! 

Is energy storage the game changer we’ve been looking for? Find Out February 23 at 12:00

February 21, 2017Megan ButlerEvents, MESA1

Photo Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory   (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Why is energy storage called the “Swiss Army Knife” of the electric grid?  It can potentially provide many different services to enhance renewable energy, reduce unnecessary infrastructure expenses, and help smooth out demand/supply curves.  But is this a good deal for customers?  Is the technology ready for prime time? And is it just about batteries? Attend the next presentation for the Institute on the Environment’s Frontiers in the Environment series and find out. The presentation will feature a panel discussion moderated by Ellen Anderson, Executive Director, Energy Transition Lab. The panel will include: Brian Burandt, Connexus Energy; Ron Nelson, Attorney General’s office; Ned Mohan, Engineering Professor, University of Minnesota, and Don Fosnacht, Associate Director, Natural Resources Resource Institute. Burandt, an electric cooperative and Nelson, a ratepayer advocate, will discuss the value proposition for utilities and customers.  Mohan and Fosnacht will discuss technology advances in energy storage.Join YouTube Live here for 2/23.

Date: Thursday, February 23 at 12:00 PM

Location: Digital Technology Center, Walter 402, 117 Pleasant St SE, Minneapolis

Report from Marrakech: UMN at the U.N. COP22 Global Climate Negotiations

December 28, 2016Megan ButlerEventsComments Off on Report from Marrakech: UMN at the U.N. COP22 Global Climate Negotiations

COP22 Source: 

Report from Marrakech: UMN at the U.N. COP22 Global Climate Negotiations

A panel of graduate students and three faculty leaders of the International Climate Change Policy-Morocco COP22 Study Abroad program will discuss their experience and takeaways from the recent U.N. international climate negotiations gathering in Marrakech, Morocco in November 2016, to be followed by Q & A.  Professors Ellen Anderson, Melissa Hortman, and Gabe Chan along with several graduate students will speak and take questions.
Hear first-hand the inside story from the U.N. climate talks in Marrakech from students and faculty-study abroad.  Bring your lunch and join the discussion on the latest global climate negotiations–and what it means for the U.S. and MN.  How does the U.S. election affect international cooperation on climate change? Find out at this student-faculty panel discussion.
Time:  12 Noon-1 pm, Wed. Jan. 25
Location:  Institute on the Environment, LES-380 Seminar Room, (St. Paul campus)
Brown bag:  bring your lunch; beverages and cookies will be provided.

Marrakech Reflections: the University of Minnesota at COP22 by Ellen Anderson

November 18, 2016Megan ButlerETL BlogComments Off on Marrakech Reflections: the University of Minnesota at COP22 by Ellen Anderson

Photo Credit: Climate Alliance Org (CC BY 2.0)


Ellen Anderson


Marrakech Reflections:  the University of Minnesota at COP22

We are winding up the final day of COP22, the international gathering of 190+ nations of the world in Marrakech, Morocco, with the goal of carrying forward the Paris Agreement on climate change.  This COP, or Conference of the Parties, marks the 22nd year of efforts to build international cooperation under the umbrella of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (UNFCCC).  It is the first COP meeting since the historic Paris Agreement came into effect on November 4, following the approval of at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions—including the U.S.  Marrakech has built a conference center resembling a sprawling, modern conference center tent city.  Like previous COPs, the “Blue Zone” tents hold the official negotiating sessions, dozens of country pavilions, and high-level representatives from many nations including the U.S.  The Green Zone is open to all participants and includes a cacophony of languages, speeches, songs, art, and orderly demonstrations by civil society, innovative businesses, and others.  The University of Minnesota’s official U.N delegation for week two of the COP includes 3 professors (myself, Gabe Chan, and Melissa Hortman) and 7 graduate students (please see other blogs here.) Our study abroad program has been supported by the Humphrey School, the Institute on the Environment, as well as the Learning Abroad Center.

I arrived in the beautiful city of Marrakech with trepidation, wondering how the U.S. election and President-elect Trump’s stated intentions to walk away from the Paris Agreement would be received.  The Paris Agreement was possible in large part due to the active participation of the United States, in particular the bilateral agreements President Obama forged with China and India, for the first time committing the largest emitting countries to significant CO2 reductions.  These agreements and the structure of the Paris Agreement, with each country bringing its own self-determined climate action plan or Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the table, created the foundation for a global agreement with virtually every nation participating.  How would the world react if the U.S. were to back out of its commitments, would it threaten to unravel the global consensus?

The answer I heard repeatedly in Marrakech was mostly positive but tempered with realism.  At COP22 nations, civil society, business leaders and others are more determined than ever to move forward.   The most commonly heard words: momentum, urgency, and action.


While the U.S. election was mentioned as a possible obstacle by almost everyone at the COP, many inspiring speakers insisted that global action on climate change is both necessary and inevitable. My highlights start with Bertrand Piccard, about whom the great grandson of Jules Verne has said:  “Everything great that has ever been achieved in the world is the result of exaggerated ambitions.”

Piccard conceived and flew the Solar Impulse solar-powered plane around the world, although the aviation industry thought it was impossible to fly that distance without carrying fuel.  Piccard said that innovation requires breaking old paradigms.  He compared internal combustion engines, leaky homes, and incandescent lightbulbs—which waste roughly half their energy—with our new smart phones.  Our energy systems rely on 100 year old technology, and if we break through to new energy innovations, “imagine the market growth, jobs, and wealth creation.”  Thus, Piccard suggested, the new President must promote renewable energy in order to “make America great again.”  Significantly, Piccard’s innovation for economic growth argument does not even mention climate change. When asked how he flew virtually without sleep for 3 days, Piccard closed with these comments:

“We are prisoners of our habits, our beliefs, our certitudes.  As soon as we jump out of our comfort zone, through the magic of adventure, you can learn what you are capable of….When you fly Solar Impulse it’s like science fiction—no fuel, no sound—you are in the future—then you land and you are still in the world that burns millions of barrels of oil a day and that is the hardest part.”

Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) spoke to the need to keep “fundamental optimism” that we will move forward. Regarding the U.S. election he said “If US decides not to lead, then China will step up and lead the world” on tackling climate change.

Jonathan Pershing, the lead U.S. negotiator, speaking in Marrakech, stressed his belief that the US economic community, business community, state and local government communities, and civil society will continue to move in the direction set by the Paris Agreement.  “Heads of state can and will change, but I am confident that we can and we will sustain the durable international effort to counter climate change…Markets are moving and countries are following. Prices for renewable energy are continuing their dramatic fall.”

Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry made an emotional pitch to COP22 attendees:  “Climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue in the first place.  No one has a right to make decisions that affect billions of people based on solely ideology or without proper input….climate change is bigger than one person, bigger than one president.”  Kerry asserted that an overwhelming majority of US citizens know climate change is happening and are determined to keep the Paris commitments.

Matt Rodriguez, California Secretary for Environmental Protection, said the federal election is unlikely to affect the trajectory of clean energy and carbon reduction in California, because it has momentum, it is “working,” and it has partners from around the world.

Finally, a welcome boost to momentum came from 300 businesses who signed an open letter to the president-elect this week in support of the Paris Agreement.  The business and investor community, including Minnesota companies General Mills, Aveda, and Sheerwind, reaffirmed their “deep commitment to addressing climate change through the implementation of the historic Paris Climate Agreement.”  The companies said they “want the US economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy….Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk.  But the right action now will create jobs and boost US competitiveness.”

Reality Check

While the speeches have been inspiring and focused on the positive, participants are not naïve about the repercussions of the U.S. election.  Around the COP numerous discussions with informed experts analyzed the different scenarios for U.S. actions on climate—all very uncertain.  As the President-elect’s transition team begins its work, it shows a bifurcated approach that is characteristic of the uneasy alliance in the campaign itself.  The split is between Trump’s media allies who provided an echo chamber for many of his personal and campaign statements, and the Republican Party leadership “establishment.”   It is unclear which camp will be his ultimate influencers.

The new administration has stated its intent to reverse the centerpiece of the U.S. climate plan, the Clean Power Plan.  This could come in the form of repealing rules promulgated under the Clean Air Act, defunding the EPA’s clean air program, or an unfavorable Supreme Court decision.   In the short term, research shows we are already on track to achieve significant reductions in coal power emissions, and many planned coal plant retirements will likely continue for economic reasons regardless of the rule.

Commentators and participants at the COP2 have a broad range of opinions about how the Trump presidency will affect the Paris Agreement.  Some suggest that he is unlikely to follow up on this campaign pledge, and are hopeful that, like many comments he made during the campaign, he may not plan to act on those statements and his position on climate change and the Paris Agreement could “evolve.”

Others think it is likely a “first day issue.”  If the new administrative wants to back out of the Paris Agreement, there are several possible pathways, all facing different legal, political, and diplomatic barriers.  Perhaps the most straightforward approach is to sign an Executive Order that cancels out President Obama’s ratification of the Paris Agreement.  The exit could not take effect until 2020, because it requires three years from entry into force of the Agreement, followed by a one year waiting period.

Another more complex but potentially more permanent approach would be rescind US participation in the UNFCCC which was signed by President HW Bush in 1992 and ratified by the US Senate.  If the US were to withdraw, it would require a Senate vote to reinstate.

A third approach would be to simply ignore the Paris Agreement, by not participating in UN COP meetings or negotiations.  This would be likely accompanied by defunding or reducing the authority of the key government agencies charged with leading the negotiations and implementation (State Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Department of Energy (DOE)).

Another option would be to ask the U.S. Senate to take a vote on the agreement with the intent to defeat it.  However, this could be very unpopular with conservative U.S. Senators who could find it a lose-lose political proposition.  If they voted against the global climate agreement, they risk criticism from many of their constituents and targeting by environmental advocates.  If they vote for it, they face the threat of a primary challenge from the Tea Party or others in the Republican Party who oppose it.

Trump has sent some signals that this will be an area for early action.  However, there seems to be a possible middle path forward.  His background and history are focused on negotiating “deals” to achieve his goals.  He could give 1-year notice as a negotiating strategy, and then use his leverage to accomplish trade goals, which were a top priority in the campaign.  “He seems to be an opportunist, not an ideologue.  He takes positions that are expedient to take in any one political moment,” said a Sierra Club top attorney in an interview in Marrakech with E & E (Environment & Energy) news.

Other Republicans have suggested he use the agreement for positive diplomatic ends, to help build stronger alliances with other countries.  While the outcome is uncertain, two things seem likely: first, the Trump administration will attempt to weaken or slow efforts to reduce coal plant emissions, which may not overcome the market forces driving more renewable energy, more natural gas, and less coal generation; second, Trump will likely target climate finance obligations and reduce U.S. contributions to less developing countries.

Some experts at the COP have suggested that the Paris Agreement will continue through its implementation phase over the next four years, and the remaining parties could ramp up ambition beyond what the U.S. would have accepted.  Then after the next presidential election, a new administration could join again, but with more stringent carbon reduction, finance, and other obligations than the US would have otherwise faced.  This could put the U.S. at a disadvantage, as its emissions may rise during the Trump administration, forcing more costly mitigation later.  But it could have the additional salutary effect of strengthening the Paris Agreement so it is more likely to meet the ambitious targets limiting warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees.

In the final days of the COP, the draft Marrakech Action Proclamation is taking shape with negotiators.  This was intended to be the “COP of Action” but may end up as more of a statement of intent to continue taking action.  A recent draft welcomes the rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement, reiterates the urgency to act on a warming climate, and recognizes the extraordinary momentum this year has seen.  The draft recognizes specific needs and special circumstances of least developed countries and those particularly vulnerable to climate change, and calls for the “highest political commitment’ to combat climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve adaptation; additionally it pushes for urgently raising ambition, strengthening cooperation, and increasing the flow of finance.

A final theme of the Morocco draft is a positive call for action and implementation, which will bring opportunities for prosperity.  In a nod to the election, it specifically calls on all non-state actors, like U.S. states and cities, to “join us.”  As we return to the U.S., at the top of my mind will be two final points: that the U.S risks losing its global influence by standing on the sidelines, and that progress on climate action will be up to states, cities, businesses, universities, and local communities in this power vacuum.  As I return home, I will focus on how we can help enable those local, state, and regional efforts to fill that leadership gap.

Wind and solar energy projects could bring 5,000 new jobs to rural Minnesota: Energy Transition Lab report measures the impact of federal and state policies to expand renewable energy

November 15, 2016Megan ButlerFeatured1

Source: Centre for Alternative Technology. (CC BY 2.0)

Minnesota has undergone a remarkable transformation in its energy landscape over the past decade. Coal, once the dominant fuel source for Minnesota’s electric utilities, has given way to new types of energy resources — wind and solar among them. While Minnesota’s state energy policies have been a large driver in the shift from fossil fuels to renewables, the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit have played a major role in shaping the state’s clean energy economy while keeping rates affordable for utility customers, according to a new report from the Energy Transition Lab.

The report “analyzes real proposed projects, not theoretical ones,” says Ellen Anderson, ETL’s executive director. “Extension of federal policies for wind and solar development are helping Minnesota residents, businesses and schools save on their energy bills and procure locally-produced wind and solar energy,” says Anderson.

Among the report’s highlights:

  • The clean energy economy is continuing to expand in Minnesota, providing low-cost energy, creating jobs and economic impact.
  • Federal and state policies, especially extension of the Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit, are helping Minnesota see significant new renewable energy projects, jobs, ratepayer savings and economic benefits.
  • Modeling shows that planned additions of wind and solar projects in the state will result in approximately $7.09 billion in direct investment, over 5,000 jobs related to construction alone and 3,987 megawatts of newly installed energy capacity.
  • Distributed generation of solar energy has almost doubled in the past two years, with businesses citing the ITC as a major driver in their success.

“These projects will not only expand renewable energy in Minnesota, they will create more than 5,000 jobs and over $7 billion in direct economic impact in 18 mostly rural Minnesota counties,” says Anderson.

Read the Report

Minnesota Energy Storage Strategy Workshop

November 3, 2016Megan ButlerEvents, Featured, MESAComments Off on Minnesota Energy Storage Strategy Workshop
Photo Credit:

Energy Storage System Photo Credit: Portland General Electric (CC BY-ND 2.0)


In September the Energy Transition Lab convened and hosted an informal Energy Storage Strategy Workshop in partnership with the Energy Foundation and a number of key local and national storage and utility industry leaders. Workshop partner and co-facilitator, Strategen Consulting, provided technical assistance and case studies of storage projects from around the country and is working to analyze specific energy storage use cases in Minnesota.

The goal of the workshop was to identify and prioritize key electric power sector challenges in Minnesota which can potentially be addressed cost-effectively by energy storage. Additionally, the workshop served to inform Minnesota stakeholders about various grid services energy storage can provide such as reliability, peak shaving, efficiency, flexibility, power quality, and renewable energy enhancement.

The workshop was the first of its kind in the nation, bringing together a diverse set of key Minnesota energy ecosystem stakeholders in an informal, small group meeting format to form hypotheses for how energy storage can be locally deployed across electric power sector silos, and to develop methodologies and approaches to evaluate its cost-effectiveness. The Energy Transition Lab and Strategen Consulting envision this informal approach as a potential model that can be expanded to other states looking to evaluate if and how energy storage can be integrated into their electric power sector.

The workshop included several presentations on energy storage which can be accessed below:

See the resources below for additional information:


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