On January 31st, the first ever MN House District 25B energy summit convened at St. Olaf College. Approximately 50 people attended to discuss future energy policies and challenges facing local communities with particular attention devoted to District 25B. After a quick introduction by myself, Rep. Bill Hilty, Chair of the House Energy Committee, opened with a brief overview of legislation passed last session and an idea of future legislation to come. Various local representatives were present including Mike Bull, assistant Director of the Minnesota Office of Energy Security, George Kinney and several other members of the Northfield Energy Task Force, as well as Paul Blackburn, executive director of Community-Based Energy Development. Also attending was Brenda Ward of the Northfield News. You can see her review in the February 2-3 edition, page 2A.
The meeting brought forth the difficulties we face as we prepare to seek new and ecologically friendly forms of sustainable energy for the future. As Paul Blackburn advised, “money has to be invested into the system” in the forms of purchasing solar panels, wind turbines, etc. and/or other forms of energy producing systems that will create a new and sustainable energy alternative.
Carol Overland, an attorney from Red Wing, attended to bring attention to two proposed energy options currently being considered by the State – The Mesaba plant and CapX2020, a proposal for transmission lines across the state stretching from the Dakotas to Wisconsin. For more of her opposition to these two options you can view the websites legalectric – or nocapx2020 . An alternative site to review for information can be seen on Capx2020.
There was a fair amount of interest in the term “Feed-in Tariffs”, which is the term art for a bill I am introducing. It is a mandated, long-term premium price for renewable energy paid by the local electric utility to energy producers. This is a concept used in Germany that has produced an astonishing 20,000 MW of installed wind capacity with 45% of turbines locally-owned. Right now, the State of Minnesota is only producing 2.5 MW with a lofty and highly unreachable goal of producing 800 MW by the year 2010 as seen in the business section of the St. Paul Pioneer Press of February 1, ’08 (http://www.twincities.com//ci_8134192). For more info on this new and exciting concept, you can view a handout at the NewRules website and contact John Farrel at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read a January 15th article by H.J. CUMMINS, in the Star Tribune about my bill.
Philipp Muessig of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) offered information about the agency’s grants of up to $10,000, awarded to cities and counties, for projects that will strengthen and encourage partnerships between citizens and local governments in reducing community greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. Technical assistance may also be provided by the Minnesota Climate Change Corps (CCC) – an initiative of the Minnesota Retired Engineers Technical Assistance Program. The CCC is comprised of skilled, retired professionals who work on either long or short-term assignments to help reduce a community’s carbon footprint. More information can be found at Nextstep.
In addition, particularly for those in our rural community that burn household garbage in a burn barrel, you may be surprised at some of the information you will find at ‘burnbarrel.’
In his closing statement, Rep. Hilty advised the participants that the terms “alternative and renewable” need to be removed from their vocabulary and replaced with the term “sustainable.” There really isn’t an alternative, at this stage of the game, to fossil fuels.