Duluth, Arrowhead looking to tap homegrown energyNortheast CERTs team gets communities thinking about renewable resources Minnesota imports 85 percent of the energy it needs. Of that, 40 percent is oil, 22 percent is natural gas, and 23 percent is coal – all of which are non-renewable resources.
Minnesota imports 85 percent of the energy it needs. Of that, 40 percent is oil, 22 percent is natural gas, and 23 percent is coal – all of which are non-renewable resources.
“This is a big problem because we produce none of this in our state,” said Bill Mittlefehldt, coordinator of the Northeast Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) that gathered the data. “When you buy gasoline, most of that is invested in a different nation. This leaves us vulnerable to other economic impacts that could be damaging.”
Yet, CERTs research also has an optimistic side.
“The fastest growing component in Minnesota is the renewable energy component,” said Mittlefehldt, who joined the Northeast CERTs team in 2008. “Roughly half of the local energies are renewable energy and nuclear energy generated by Xcel Energy. That’s a really good sign.”
Launched in 2003 as a state organization, the CERTs project started when the Minnesota Department of Commerce saw how much the state was spending on importing energy.
Now a state entity associated with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, CERTs partners with businesses and community leaders to get communities invested in energy efficiency. The organization is based out of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Locally, the Northeast CERTs team has been working to raise awareness about energy usage through involvement at events such as the 2012 Energy Design Conference & Expo that took place Feb. 21-22 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. The team has been partnering with organizations at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and city leaders and business owners.
Mittlefehldt is the coordinator for the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships program, with the Northeast CERTs team working out of UMD’s Chester Park building. His district runs from Pine City to Canada and includes the Arrowhead region, where he works with more than 15 communities on investing in renewable energy.
“We want to see how we can run our homes and businesses on Minnesota energy,” Mittlefehldt said. “There are so many people concerned about energy in Duluth. It’s produced quite a rigorous team.”
With more than 30 years of experience in education, Mittlefehldt’s work with the CERTs team often centers on connecting students at UMD with information about energy efficiency.
DyAnn Andybur, energy coordinator for the city of Duluth, said Mittlefehldt recently contacted her about speaking to UMD students who are studying environmental science and hoping to set up internships.
Andybur said CERTs often makes grants available for communities to get started on renewable energy projects.
“The bottom line is, we need to implement and engage conversation in the community and with the legislature on advancing more renewable resources,” she said.
Northeast CERTs has been working closely with the UMD Office of Sustainability and Institute for Sustainable Community Development. It’s also been working on making contact with business owners in the solar industry. Mittlefehldt says many communities are interested in renewable forms of energy such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy.
“The problem is there are some local energies that make more sense for your area,” he said. “If Minnesota is engaged in a long-term energy transition to a more renewable energy profile, it’s going to take a long time to learn the transition.”
Even so, Mittlefehldt says the work of Northeast CERTs is making a difference.
“It’s not all doom and gloom,” he said. “I see some momentum developing. It’s all about how we can protect our kids in the next century and learn faster together.”
To learn more about the CERTs team, visit www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org or contact Mittlefehldt at (218)726-6146.
Minnesota cities take steps toward energy efficiency
Cities around the state are joining the GreenStep program and inching their way toward energy efficiency. Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) is one of six state organizations that has partnered with GreenStep Cities to help communities set goals for achieving sustainability.
Bill Mittlefehldt, coordinator of the Northeast CERTs team, works with 15 communities in Northeast Minnesota, encouraging the cities to consider joining the statewide project.
“If Minnesota communities do not prepare to make an energy transition in the next decade or so, there’s going to be lots of suffering and economic hardship,” he said. “The smart communities are getting motivated and are planning for prosperity.”
The program is a statewide learning process that outlines activities communities can undertake to increase their energy efficiency. Cities that join the program agree to take actions toward building a sustainable future for their community.
Partners of the program are CERTs, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources, League of Minnesota Cities, Urban Land Institute Minnesota, Great Plains Institute, and the Izaak Walton League - Minnesota Division
For more information on the Minnesota GreenStep Cities project, visit www.mngreenstep.org.