An Equitable Clean Energy Future Accessible to all Minnesotans: Removing the Barriers

If we are fortunate to get a Clean Power Plan implemented in Minnesota, it is important that energy equity be prioritized in addition to carbon reduction. The renewable energy revolution has to be done in a way that helps promote economic and racial justice if we are to fulfill goals of moving our state toward 100 renewables.

The system we have in place makes it very difficult for families with a lack disposable income or without credit scores over 700 to invest in energy efficiency improvements, weatherization and clean energy through community based solar and wind sources.

Let’s remove these barriers so that all customers can improve their homes and save their families energy dollars regardless of income or credit score.

 When we clear an easy path for low and middle income families to take action on climate change, they also gain the double benefit of saving money on utilities, and building a green job-creating economy of locally circulating wealth.

 

 

 

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Remembering Kirk Washington Jr.

At the intersection between activism and poetry, at the intersection between community art and cultural-civic engagement, Kirk used artistic expression to foster social change. He spread his energy of collective organization whenever he blinked and completely related to people who could hardly be more different from himself.

I recall Kirk expressing an interest in a greater variety of mediums and capacities than any of us could keep track of: bookmaking, education, spoken word performances, event building, urban gardening, community development, visual art, poetry, cultural theory, musical expression, etc.

He could take negativity, fear, anger and transform it into beauty, into poetry while building power around reflection. A much needed characteristic in this world.

In particular, Kirk demonstrated to us us all the value of using great talent in poetry, spoken word and artistic expression as a way to create counter-narratives to dominant stories. He had the critical mind to see through anything which enabled him to not only open up dialogue on challenging conversations but change hearts and begin solutions.

 

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Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership Continues to Gain National Recognition and Awards

The Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership has helped the City win milestones of national recognition even when it existed only on paper. At that time in late 2014, The White House and U.S. Department of Energy gave the City of Minneapolis a competitive “Climate Action Champion” award largely because the Partnership it established with its energy utilities was the first of its kind in the nation.

Now the Clean Energy Partnership itself is winning awards of national recognition after a full year of formally convening. On Wednesday March 9th, the Partnership won the EPA’s 2016 Climate Leadership Award in the Innovative Partnerships category for working collaboratively on leading-edge climate initiatives. The award page identified ambitious energy goals, the Partnership’s early accomplishments and the Energy Vision Advisory Committee (EVAC) providing input on the Partnership’s work plan.

Particularly successful is Minneapolis' Energy Benchmarking program as it has earned a dynamic duo of honorary acknowledgement this year. 

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Xcel, Centerpoint, Minneapolis give $10,000 each to EVAC’S new Community Engagement Pilot Project

The Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership has a conduit for community input on how to meet City energy goals known as the Energy Vision Advisory Committee (EVAC). Members of the EVAC have succeeded in launching a serious movement to shift energy efficiency program implementation towards an innovative community engagement rather than relying upon the marketing approach which utilities are familiar with.  

Energy utilities have become accustomed to using marketing-based recruitment and retention strategies that often have passive method of soliciting participation into their home energy saving programs (as described in this blogpost). However the marketing approach has not been very effective in situations where people's main barriers to significant energy saving gains are social in nature as opposed to purely financial (as described in this blogpost).

 

 

 

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Why the traditional passive marketing approach to energy efficiency programs has been inadequately effective

Utilities like Xcel and Centerpoint frequently include lists of energy-saving steps and ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs when they mail their bills to customers, often because they are required to do so by state law as in the case of Minnesota. In addition, utilities also stuff in information about a whole array of rebates, cash incentives or low-interest loans for energy-efficient products & home improvements. But the response rate & customer follow through has been too disappointingly low for the marketing dollars to translate into the equivalent energy savings. In reaction to modest response rates, the utility-funded energy efficiency marketing industry has doubled down offering slicker financing, refining their sales pitch, making their energy audits more convenient and increasing their rebates. Yet those doing the well-intentioned work under the usual methods still can’t seem get enough customers to be enthusiastic enough to manifest the energy savings on a scale we'd like to see. I myself have first hand experience doing energy efficiency doorknocking and getting less than 2% response rates when we simply left a flyer. For one thing, there is no substitute for direct personal contact. In order to exceed these historical modest levels of participation in energy efficiency programs among small businesses and residents, it will require some skilled community engagement and educational outreach from block leaders, energy service contractors, and community groups that goes far beyond the scope of where utility bureaucracies usually reach.

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