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Local Government Energy Action Series
The Local Government Energy Action series tells the stories of municipalities, counties, and schools and the results of their energy-saving efforts.

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Local government staff join tour of energy efficiency improvements at Mankato State University
Chris Meyer
Tue, 11/20/2018 - 2:43pm
On Thursday, November 1st, Southeast Clean Energy Resource Teams (SE CERT) hosted a “Capturing Savings from Public Building Energy Efficiency: Benchmarking through Financing – Getting your Project Done” session at the Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Centennial Student Union. CERTs has worked for years to reinforce that the cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use. Turns out that the 50 attendees at the event know that’s true and were enthusiastic to hear from the range of speakers about varying strategies for reducing the impact of energy costs on their bottom line.   Strategy 1: Energy Benchmarking!   Cheri Schneider of the Weidt Group kicked off the session with an introduction to the key elements of the Buildings, Benchmarks and Beyond—B3—Benchmarking Tool. Cheri highlighted the different...
Testing at a wastewater treatment facility
Joel Haskard
Fri, 09/21/2018 - 2:06pm
Effective wastewater treatment systems are critical infrastructure to manage waste effluent within hundreds of communities in Minnesota. The Minnesota Rural Water Association (MRWA) is partnering with MPCA, MnTAP, City of St. Cloud and Met Council on a Wastewater Optimization Pilot Project (Pond and Mechanical). Optimization includes getting better results through existing infrastructure. The goal of the project is to provide assistance to comply with water quality standards without needing expensive new construction and increased nutrient removal and improved operational efficiencies. There is NO cost to participate in this project! Click here to learn more and apply >>   More case studies highlight energy efficiency at Minnesota wastewater treatment plants   Wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) operate in...
The state of Minnesota recently installed solar panels on the roof of a legislative office building.
Frank Jossi
Fri, 09/14/2018 - 9:57am
This article is reposted from the original by Frank Jossi in Midwest Energy News. Cities, school districts, and government agencies are using a shared contract to streamline the process of procuring solar power. The state of Minnesota and nearly a dozen other government entities will use a collaborative buying approach to build 4 megawatts of on-site solar. Called Solar Possible, the initiative used a master contract and a joint request for proposals to select vendors and gather pricing data. The Minnesota Department of Administration’s Office of Enterprise Sustainability and two partner organizations developed the program. Participating school districts, government agencies and city...
Bus tour of Warren, MN clean energy projects
Joel Anastasio
Fri, 07/13/2018 - 1:20pm
Over 30 people met in Warren, Minnesota, (pop. 1,563) on the morning of Thursday, June 28, 2018, to learn how the city has advanced its local economy with energy efficiency and renewable energy, while saving the city on its bottom line. The event was hosted by Northwest Clean Energy Resource Team (NW CERT), the City of Warren, and Headwaters Regional Development Commission (HRDC). A little background on Warren’s efforts: Not only is Warren a Minnesota GreenStep City, they were also chosen to participate in the Climate-Smart Municipalities Partnership, which connected the City of Arnsberg, Germany, with the City of Warren. This three-year program allows the sister cities to learn from another as a way to address the economic development opportunity of...
Solar ribbon cutting at the MN Capitol
Peter Lindstrom
Fri, 06/08/2018 - 11:03am
Electricity to the Minnesota Capitol complex is getting greener with the activation of the first phase of a large new solar array on the roof of the Minnesota Senate Building (MSB). The project, overseen by the Minnesota Department of Administration, was formally opened last month with a ribbon-cutting. Partners in the project include Mortenson Construction and Gephardt Electric, who installed the system, and Xcel Energy. “The State of Minnesota is leading by example, working to increase renewable energy at the State Capitol to better protect Minnesotans’ health and our environment,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “Thanks to statewide, bipartisan efforts, Minnesota has already met our goal to generate 25 percent of our energy needs from renewable sources by 2025.” The solar project consists of 414 twenty-one square foot panels that produce 133,000 peak watts of direct current power...
Xcel Energy Partners In Energy Program
Tami Gunderzik
Fri, 05/11/2018 - 11:36am
Although Minnesota communities share a common belief of how important a healthy environment is to both our economy and lifestyle, there are many ways of putting that value into action. Finding ways to engage local businesses and residents to make a contribution toward a clean energy plan is an approach that works. Eighteen communities in Minnesota have participated in Partners in Energy to develop a plan that helps them identify where they want to go with respect to energy and how to best achieve those goals, and now there is an opportunity for even more to share in their success. Xcel Energy is now accepting applications for the next cohort of communities to join Partners in Energy....
Business Blitzers (left to right): John Howard, City of Winona; Chris Meyer, SE CERT coordinator; Sadie Neuman, City of Winona; Alexis Troschinetz, CERTs; Joel Haskard, CERTs
Sadie Neuman
Tue, 05/08/2018 - 2:34pm
After a snowstorm delayed plans, five staff from the City of Winona and Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) set out in March for the first Business Blitz in downtown Winona. The blitz involved walking door-to-door in downtown Winona to speak with small and medium sized businesses about reducing energy use and saving money on their energy bills. They achieved their goal of reaching 100 small and medium businesses, and signed 29 businesses up for free energy assessments with EnergySmart, a program offered by the State Chamber of Commerce. The blitz is following the success of a series of blitzes in other communities over the past several years. Throughout the day, the Business Blitz team informed business owners...
Minnesota GreenStep Cities survey results
Alexis Troschinetz
Fri, 04/13/2018 - 11:15am
We had a great response rate to the second annual survey of cities and tribal nations in the Minnesota GreenStep program. The number of cities and tribal nations responding to the survey improved four points over the inaugural survey. Read on for some highlights of the results! 2017 Survey: 84 responded out of the 110 communities at the time = 76% response rate 2018: 96 responded out of 119 = 80% response rate It’s great to have so many communities will to share feedback about the program! We will continue to improve the program based on the survey’s responses.   Top Best Practice Actions for 2018   GreenStep Best Practice Advisors and others are busy following-up with the 72 GreenStep Cities or Tribal Nations that expressed interest in receiving assistance on 12 specific best practice actions. If all of...
Seven communities won 2018 Clean Energy Community Awards
MN Dept. of Commerce
Tue, 04/03/2018 - 2:15pm
Seven Minnesota communities are recipients of the 2018 Clean Energy Community Awards coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), with financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy. The awards were presented March 28, 2018 at the CERTs Community Driven Clean Energy Conference in St. Cloud. This year’s awards honor community-organized clean energy initiatives in the Town of Crystal Bay, City of Edina, Hennepin County, Minnesota State University Mankato, City of Red Wing, City of Warren, and Sustain Winona. These communities are contributing to the state’s clean energy goals with programs, policies and technologies that encourage energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy generation. “Minnesota has ambitious clean energy goals and the objective of our Clean Energy Community Awards is to acknowledge the great work of...
Rochester Recreation Center received massive energy upgrades
Peter Lindstrom
Wed, 03/07/2018 - 2:55pm
Aging buildings often use a lot of unnecessary electricity, and two key facilities in Rochester—Rochester Recreation Center and Mayo Civic Center—had many opportunities for energy savings. This case study highlights improvements at both centers that have increased efficiency and will extend the life of these important community hubs. Two Centers in Need of Upgrades: The Rochester Recreation Center, constructed in 1974, contains two ice arenas, a gymnasium, a pool, offices and locker rooms and is home to several hockey programs, a figure skating club, and a swim club. The facility had an aging ice plant refrigeration system, needed mechanical improvements to address occupant comfort and dehumidification concerns, outdated lighting, and was using multiple systems to control the equipment. At 115,000 square feet, it was an energy hog. Across town, the Mayo Civic Center had recently...
Diana McKeown
Thu, 02/22/2018 - 4:50pm
The city of Minneapolis has launched a new solar incentive for small businesses that will match up to $0.25 per kWh match for the first year of solar production estimate AND will match $0.35 per kWh in recognized Environmental Justice areas or Green Zones of Minneapolis. The project must be installed before they will pay out the incentive so they can get an accurate assumption of production. Patrick Hanlon, Director of Environmental Programs for the City of Minneapolis, said “In Minneapolis we know the threats of climate change are real, as is the pollution associated with our energy choices. We created this program to create real change to start improving the situation now. It’s fair to say this is the best incentive program of any individual city in the United States.” So it’s kind of a big deal! The goal of the Minneapolis Green...
MnTAP helps Altura explore energy-saving opportunities at their wastewater treatment facility
Chris Meyer
Fri, 01/26/2018 - 10:37am
You may not know this, but wastewater treatment facilities use a huge amount of energy—usually 20-35% of a municipality’s total energy costs, but in many communities the cost can rise to a whopping 60%. Thus, wastewater facilities offer great potential for savings, since the majority are typically neither designed nor operated with energy efficiency as a priority. With recent help of the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Rural Water Association, the City of Altura is on track to save an estimated $4,680 per year—and potentially as much as $14,000 per year—while being assured that the city’s water quality is maintained. Keep reading for their story, and go even further to see highlights from other cities around the state. In 2017 the City of Altura was selected to be part of a project to reduce energy use in Minnesota waste water treatment plants funded by...
LoGoPEP logo
Diana McKeown
Wed, 01/24/2018 - 12:51pm
Metro CERT Director Diana McKeown with the Great Plains Institute took a moment to interview Ellen Anderson, Executive Director of the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab, about an important new project to help communities reach and measure progress toward their energy and emissions goals.   What does LoGoPEP stand for, and what is the goal of the project?   Ellen Anderson: Local Government Project for Energy Planning (LoGoPEP). The project builds upon existing efforts to engage local governments in committing to actionable strategies for energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions. LoGoPEP will provide communities with planning tools and actual results to measure progress toward their goals. This project is being developed at the Twin Cities metropolitan regional scale with the goal of future replicability and institutionalization throughout the state...
La Crescent receives their GreenStep City sign from EQB staffer Kristin Mroz
Chris Meyer
Thu, 01/11/2018 - 11:55am
It’s been just over two years since La Crescent, MN (population 5,200) became a Minnesota GreenStep City in October 2015, but they have big achievements to share. In June of 2017 they advanced to a Step 2 city and City Administrator Bill Waller indicated that they are on track to achieve Step 3 in 2018. They were also one of three finalists in the top three Best of B3 Benchmarking competition for the state, being narrowly beaten out by the larger Prior Lake. Laying the groundwork for success   Waller talked about the opportunities and subsequent energy savings that building energy benchmarking has opened up to the city. After joining the voluntary statewide recognition GreenStep City program, La Crescent partnered with Winona State University to create an internship. It was with the help of the WSU Student Intern, Alison Bettin, that La...
Attendees chatting about super exciting energy efficiency opportunities, all made possible by building benchmarking!
Chris Meyer
Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:13pm
Remember the movie Toy Story and that phrase, “To Infinity and Beyond!”? That was the basis for the name “Buildings, Benchmarks, and Beyond” or B3, and it was with that same sort of enthusiasm—but for energy efficiency—that Southeast Clean Energy Resource Team (SE CERT) kicked off a workshop on December 1st for local governments and schools looking to save energy in their buildings, kindly hosted at People’s Energy Cooperative in Oronoco. Cheri Schneider of the Weidt Group started the session with a rapid-fire overview of the public building benchmarking part of B3. Click here to download her presentation. In short, Cheri’s key messages were that B3 benchmarking allows you and your decision makers to better understand how your buildings’ energy use compares with...
Waconia Public Schools third-party solar ribbon cutting
Peter Lindstrom
Thu, 11/02/2017 - 4:36pm
Minneapolis, Champlin, Forest Lake Area Schools, Lester Prairie, Dakota County, Waconia Public Schools. What do these local governments and schools districts have in common? They are just a sample of public entities that have utilized third-party financing as a means to place solar arrays on their facilities. Third-party financing is an innovative tool for public entities to tap into long-term energy cost savings without requiring large up-front capital expenditures. Local governments and schools are great locations for solar: large, flat roofs, lots of expensive electrical load, a commitment to sustainability, and a guarantee that they’ll never go out of business. However, since governments can’t take advantage of federal tax credits for solar, the projects often don’t pencil out financially. Third-party financing is a popular means to overcome this barrier. It occurs in two...
Fond du Lac clean energy tour
Brian Bluhm
Wed, 09/20/2017 - 4:02pm
On August 9, 2017 NE CERT and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa co-hosted a clean energy tour of both Fond du Lac Band’s Resource Management Division building as well as Black Bear Casino Resort. The tour included a 1MW solar PV installation, LED lighting, a wood pellet biomass system and other clean energy technologies. Joel Haskard, Co-Director for CERTs, noted that the resource management division building was a good example of what can be done to increase sustainability and clean energy. “This building is LEED certified. Here you can see the green roof, the 12KW solar system, solar tubes for lighting, LED lighting, and even motion sensors to power down the vending machines… They also used super-insulated spray foam for the walls and a storm water drainage system that feeds into a small wetlands in back. Impressive stuff!” Bruno Zagar, Environmental Specialist and...
Trevor Drake
Tue, 08/15/2017 - 2:22pm
Almost every time we give a community presentation on solar, somebody asks about how the costs of the technology are changing and whether it’s best to wait to “go solar.” It’s a smart question, and indeed the costs of the physical components of solar projects are being driven down by market forces (though arguably not quick enough to warrant waiting). The trouble with this question is that it misses the target in seeing what’s most important, which is not just the cost of hardware but the final cost of an installed system. The non-hardware “soft costs” of solar, which include the costs incurred to solar developers (and passed onto system owners or subscribers) for navigating local zoning regulations, pulling permits, and providing financing options to customers, can total as much as 64% of the cost of a residential solar installation, according to the...
Glendale Townhomes in Prospect Park neighborhood of Minneapolis
Joel Haskard
Thu, 06/08/2017 - 3:11pm
Excerpt from Finance & Commerce article by Frank Jossi: Owned by the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, the Glendale Townhomes in Prospect Park have not had many updates to improve their energy efficiency since they were constructed in 1952. Later this year a pilot project will begin with an energy audit of one of the complex’s eight-unit townhouse buildings. After that, a larger weatherization program will get underway to make the lives of all tenants more comfortable, said Tim Gaetz, the authorities managing director of facilities and development. “The weatherization will make the townhouses less drafty and warmer in winter and cooler in summer,” Gaetz said. “They will have a much more comfortable indoor living environment. And any money savings for [the housing...
Project partners pose for an award photo
Trevor Drake
Fri, 05/26/2017 - 10:51am
The Metropolitan Council, Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), and their partners are being awarded for their innovative solar garden work at the 25th Anniversary Environmental Initiative Awards. The awards program, hosted by the nonprofit Environmental Initiative, annually honors innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary outcomes by harnessing the power of partnership. The project is being honored in the Community Action category. The Governmental Solar Garden Collaborative is a joint effort by and for 31 local governments in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan region to procure solar garden subscriptions from a single Request...
Touring the solar array that powers the Hutchinson wastewater treatment plant
Kristi Fernholz
Fri, 05/19/2017 - 4:19pm
On Tuesday, April 18, 2017, over 20 people gathered at City Hall in Hutchinson, Minnesota, to take a driving and walking tour of the many clean energy and sustainability projects that the city has engaged in over the years. They were greeted by Mayor Gary Forcier, City Administrator Matt Jaunich, Facilities Manager Jeremiah “JJ” Verhey and GreenStep Cities Coordinator and Project, Environmental, and Regulatory Manager John Paulson. The three spoke about some of the energy efficiency upgrades (LED lighting, lighting times/motion sensors, variable frequency drive motors) that have reduced energy costs across the city’s buildings. “We’re doing it for multiple reasons—economic and environmental—and then we are benchmarking so we can show people where we are saving money,” noted Mayor Forcier. The city even created its own composting program to process and sell the compost it collects...
Diana McKeown chats with local business owner
Diana McKeown
Sat, 04/22/2017 - 2:25pm
Over the past year, Metro CERT has supported the energy conservation and development aspect of the Chisago Lakes Area’s community revitalization plan for their entry into the America’s Best Communities (ABC) competition they have been participating in for nearly two years. The Chisago Lakes Area includes the communities of Chisago, Lindstrom, Center City, Shafer, and Taylors Falls. In the end, they were one of eight communities (out of 350 originally) with a chance to receive one, two, or three million dollars. On April 19th the winners were announced and sadly, Chisago Lakes didn’t win. Though they are still winners in our eyes!   Metro CERT support   Metro CERT supported the energy conservation and development plan in a number of different ways. In December...


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Minnesota Department of Commerce University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission