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Energy Transition Lab

Duluth’s Energy Future

August 12, 2016Megan ButlerETL Blog, Events, FeaturedComments Off on Duluth’s Energy Future

Duluth Energy Future Photo

Over the past year, the Energy Transition Lab has been involved in research regarding Duluth and Northeast Minnesota’s Energy Future. By integrating renewables such as bioenergy and solar along with Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems and energy efficiency into Northeast Minnesota’s existing energy system, the region will be able to increase local resiliency while also having positive impacts on the local economy and environment. In total, this research included bioenergy, solar, energy efficiency, district energy systems and CHP projects to show the pathways that could be involved in developing a truly integrated hybrid energy system.

In September, 2016 Ellen Anderson and Research Assistant Megan Butler traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to present the Energy Transition Lab's work on Duluth's Energy Future at the Energy Policy Institute's 6th Annual Energy Policy Research Conference.

In September, 2016 Ellen Anderson and Research Assistant Megan Butler traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to present the Energy Transition Lab’s work on Duluth’s Energy Future at the Energy Policy Institute’s 6th Annual Energy Policy Research Conference.

The full Duluth’s Energy Future Report is composed of chapters focusing upon three main priority areas which were identified after an extensive stakeholder engagement process in Northeast Minnesota:

  1. An Economic Modeling of Proposed Biomass and Solar Opportunities in Northeast Minnesota 
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    Working with the Labovitz School of Business and Economics Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the Energy Transition Lab utilized an IMPLAN analysis to model the economic impacts of clean energy projects in the region. This research shows that transitioning from fossil fuels to local and regionally-sourced bioenergy and other clean energy resources has the potential to create jobs and economic growth in the city of Duluth and the heavily forested northeast “Iron Range” region of Minnesota.
  2. Strategies for Transforming Building Stock to Zero Energy 
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    Partnering with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Building Research, we developed a prototype for measuring the impact of energy efficiency measures on public buildings. Using this model we demonstrated how to transform an existing public building into a Net Zero Energy/Carbon building. This research allowed us to provide building owners with actionable, cost-effective strategies for reducing the energy footprint of existing building stock. Using this experience, we worked with local partners to develop recommendations for using energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to transform the existing building stock in Duluth.
  3. Combined Heat and Power Barriers and Opportunities in Northeast Minnesota. 
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    CHP is far more efficient than conventional power production, which wastes up to 60% of the energy value of the fuel. If we can capture the heat or thermal energy released during electricity production, it can be a valuable energy resource instead of being released to the atmosphere as wasted heat. Through interviews with organizations that have recently converted to CHP in Minnesota as well as organizations in Northeast Minnesota currently considering CHP, the Energy Transition Lab evaluated and developed recommendations for the legal, regulatory, siting, and other platforms that will enable CHP’s development. 

Read the Full Report

Together, these three areas of research serve to provide a valuable resource for the City of Duluth and Northeast Minnesota to engage key stakeholders in a conversation about how they envision Northeast Minnesota’s energy future. This research will help the city of Duluth take some transformational steps towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy system. In this way Duluth, a blue-collar, industrial, coal-dependent, and extreme climate city in America’s heartland, can also serve as a model for energy transition in the United States by showing that it is possible to transition to cleaner energy systems and benefit the local economy.

Cover Photo Credit:  Jim Brekke

Energy Transition Lab Report: Renewable Energy Projects Offer Big Jobs Potential for Duluth Area

June 8, 2016Kristin AntonETL BlogComments Off on Energy Transition Lab Report: Renewable Energy Projects Offer Big Jobs Potential for Duluth Area

ETL and the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the Labovitz School of Business and Economics, UMD recently released a report on the future of biomass and solar in Duluth. Click here to read the post from the University of Minnesota Law School and here to read the post from the Institute on the Environment.

Duluth’s Energy Future: Economic Modeling of Proposed Biomass and Solar Initiatives

May 27, 2016Megan ButlerETL BlogComments Off on Duluth’s Energy Future: Economic Modeling of Proposed Biomass and Solar Initiatives

In early 2015, several dozen community leaders from Duluth’s city government, local businesses, electric utility company, nonprofit organizations, and the University of Minnesota Duluth participated in a charrette to determine an Energy Future Vision for the city. The goal of the charrette was to capture “the ambitions and concerns” of the key stakeholders, with relevant economic, social, environmental, [and] sustainability aspects.” One of the group’s priority conclusions was the need to understand jobs and economic development impacts of different energy options. They asked the Energy Transition Lab to help Duluth analyze the economic and jobs implications of more locally produced energy from biomass and solar energy. The Energy Transition Lab partnered with UMD’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) to model the potential economic impact of of five proposed projects on Northeast Minnesota. Each of the five projects was selected based on local feasibility and interest. Projects selected for modeling included the following:

  1. The Grand Marais Biomass District Heating System
  2. The Duluth Energy Systems Plant Retrofit and Biomass Conversion
  3. A Torrefaction Processing Plant
  4. Two Biorenewable Chemical Production Plants
  5. The Installation of Solar Power Production Arrays in the Region

These five projects, were they to occur, could represent a significant increase in the use and production of renewable energy in the Arrowhead region.  Four of the five projects included in the analysis involve the use of biomass as a fuel source or feedstock.  The total economic impacts from the construction of these four projects could support nearly 1,600 jobs in the eight-county region, an additional $83 million in labor income, and would contribute roughly $154 million in value-added spending to the region’s Gross Regional Product (GRP). The combined effects for a typical year of operations from the four projects would equate to more than 1,000 new jobs in the eight-county study area, an additional $54 million in wages, benefits, and proprietor income, and an $80 million contribution to the region’s GRP.

Read The Full Report
 

Photo Credit: Oregon Department of Forestry  (CC BY: 2.0)

Watch Catching The Sun, A Documentary About the Race to Clean Energy, May 26th in Minneapolis

May 20, 2016Megan ButlerETL Blog, FeaturedComments Off on Watch Catching The Sun, A Documentary About the Race to Clean Energy, May 26th in Minneapolis

Catching the Sun
Come see Catching the Sun, a documentary about the race to clean energy, in Minneapolis on Thursday  May 26. Catching the Sun tells the story of the global energy transition from the perspective of workers and entrepreneurs building solutions to income inequality and climate change with their own hands. The documentary is coming to Minneapolis as part of its National Screening Tour which aims to spark new conversations in over 30 cities across the United States! http://www.catchingthesun.tv/seethefilm/ 

Time: Thursday, May 26 7:00PM – 8:28PM

Location: St Anthony Main Theater. 115 SE Main St, Minneapolis, MN, US, 55414

Get Your Tickets here: https://www.tugg.com/events/96340 Read more →

Ellen Anderson to Speak at Sabo Symposium: “Climate Change After Paris: How do we Get There?”

March 7, 2016Megan ButlerETL Blog, EventsComments Off on Ellen Anderson to Speak at Sabo Symposium: “Climate Change After Paris: How do we Get There?”

Ellen Anderson to Speak at Sabo Symposium: “Climate Change After Paris: How do We Get There?”

Energy Transition Lab Executive Director & Adjunct Associate Professor Ellen Anderson will speak at Sabo Symposium, Augsburg College, Minneapolis at a forum entitled, “Climate Change After Paris: How do We Get There?” The forum will be held Tuesday, March 8, at 7 pm, at Hoversten Chapel, 625 22nd Avenue South, Augsburg College, Minneapolis.

Other panelists include Anne Hunt, Environmental Policy Director, City of St. Paul, and Amy Fredregill, Resource Planning and Strategy Manager, Xcel Energy. The panel will be moderated by Sabo Center Senior Fellow Tom Berg. The forum is named after former Congressman Martin Olav Sabo. The panel will discuss the Paris Cllimate Change Conference and offer thoughts on how we take action.

Read Ellen Anderson’s faculty profile.

Cover Photo Credit: jmdigne (CC BY-NC 2.0)

 

Free Public Seminar on Community Solar

January 13, 2016Megan ButlerETL Blog, EventsComments Off on Free Public Seminar on Community Solar

Community Solar Gardens are centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers. A free public seminar hosted by Clean Energy Resource Teams will provide participants with information and resources to better understand community solar gardens (http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/solargardens).

Time: 3:304:30 p.m Wednesday, January 27.

Place: 105 Cargill Building, University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus.


Community solar projects have been enabled by the Minnesota legislature and provide and opportunity for individual participation in larger scale solar. Called Community Solar Gardens, these are centrally located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers. The Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) provide consumers with resources to better understand community solar garden projects and implement community based clean energy projects. .

In this free public seminar, CERTS Director Lissa Pawlisch will provide an overview of community solar gardens and resources available to consumers.

Photo Credit: Westmill Solar Park (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

 

Climate Adaptation Conference January 28th

January 5, 2016Megan ButlerETL Blog, EventsComments Off on Climate Adaptation Conference January 28th

The 2nd Annual Climate Adaptation Conference will be held on January 28th in Minneapolis. The conference is organized by University of Minnesota’s Water Resource Center and is open to the public. For more information about the Climate Adaption Conference visit the Water Resource Center Website or see the conferences Climate Adaption Conference Agenda.

Register Today

The conference will include panels involving corporate leaders, tribal communities, and local mayors. Breakout sessions will involve themes such as: emergency management and climate adaptation, climate change communication, local foods and climate change, energy, and climate impacts on water resources.

Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service (CC BY 2.0)

Watch The Reflections From The Paris Climate Talks Discussion

December 17, 2015Megan ButlerETL Blog, EventsComments Off on Watch The Reflections From The Paris Climate Talks Discussion

 

Photo Credit: Climate Generation Reflections From the Paris Climate Talks

On Wednesday Night over 100 people packed the Reflections from the Paris Climate Talks Forum hosted by Climate Generation at The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.. A full web recording of the post-COP21 panel discussion can be found here.

 Watch The Discussion

Read more →

Addressing Climate and Peace in Paris and Minnesota

December 11, 2015Megan ButlerETL Blog, FeaturedComments Off on Addressing Climate and Peace in Paris and Minnesota

Energy Transition Lab executive director Ellen Anderson and two seniors from Macalaster College explored connections between global climate change and peace at  in this editorial which originally appeared as an article on the MINNPOST

Written by: Ellen Anderson, Laura Humes and Kayla Walsh Read more →

Success in the Paris Climate Negotiations in Broader Context

December 9, 2015Megan ButlerETL BlogComments Off on Success in the Paris Climate Negotiations in Broader Context

Success in the Paris Climate Negotiations in Broader Context

By: Hari Osofsky

This blog post written by Energy Transition Lab Faculty Director Hari Osofsky was published on December 8th in Opinio Juris Blog Archive

I appreciate the opportunity to guest blog with Opinio Juris while at the Paris climate change negotiations this week. I will aim in my blogs to complement Dan Bodansky’s excellent assessment of the negotiations among state parties by examining the broader context of what would be required to address climate change adequately and the activities by other key stakeholders.

From my observation of the first Comité de Paris and hallway conversations on Monday, December 7, the parties still seem on track to reach some sort of agreement in Paris, though perhaps not by the Friday deadline. While there are certainly some differences yet to be resolved, the tone appears to be unusually cooperative at this stage according to those who have attended many of these negotiations.

However, even if the agreement contains reference to the need to keep warming less than 1.5 degrees, which appears increasingly likely, the state parties are highly unlikely to actually achieve that with their current commitments. As one civil society participant from Latin America remarked to me yesterday, the key question is whether we hold warming at 3 or 4 degrees. While I certainly hope he is wrong, we are not on track, even is these negotiations successfully conclude, to mitigate at the levels that scientists say are needed. And as I have analyzed in forthcoming articles with Jackie Peel  and Hannah Wiseman, even if we can find ways to more constructively address energy partisanship in the United States, the Clean Power Plan will involve a complex integration of an environmental cooperative federalist law with a largely state- and regionally-based energy system.

So how do we bridge the gap between what negotiations among nation-states can achieve and what is needed? Two key pieces of that puzzle are subnational governments and the private sector (particularly corporations and investors), and my blogs this week will focus on some of their activities here.

In the process, I will also try to convey, for those who have not attended international negotiations like these, the concentric circles of activity taking place here, with access limitations between each ring. At the core are the nation-states negotiating, and even some of those meetings are only open to subsets of those negotiators. A key concern raised in the Comité de Paris by several state parties on Monday night was the need for more transparency and inclusion in the informal facilitated streams taking place this week to try to bridge differences. Outside of that are official observers, who can gain access to only a very limited set of the negotiations but are able to enter the “Blue Zone,” which contains the negotiating spaces and many of the high-level side events. Outside of the restricted space, a hall in Le Bourget and venues around Paris contain events open to the many people who are here without access passes.

As I move between sessions in the “Blue Zone” space, the people around me exude a sense of being rushed and busy with important tasks as they race among meetings and cluster in small groups in hallways. I am continually reminded of an observation by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the-chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, when she presented  at the climate change negotiations in 2005, the year that the Inuit submitted their petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights claiming that U.S climate change policy violated their rights:

I have attended three COPs. People rush from meeting to meeting arguing about all sorts of narrow technical points. The bigger picture, the cultural picture, the human picture is being lost. Climate change is not about bureaucrats scurrying around. It is about families, parents, children, and the lives we lead in our communities in the broader environment. We have to regain this perspective if climate change is to be stopped.

While many at these negotiations clearly have that bigger-picture focus, I think that continually reminding ourselves of what all these legal conversations are really about is critical. Achieving an agreement that goes farther than anything that preceded it at Paris would certainly be a form of success, but ultimately we only succeed if we limit human suffering and ecosystem damage—and develop new opportunities—through mitigating and adapting adequately.

 

Featured Photo Credit: Mark Dixon (CC BY 2.0)

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