Duluth mayor enters city in nationwide energy contest
Mayor Don Ness thinks he has an idea worth $1 million, or maybe even $5 million. He has entered a first-ever competition called the Mayors Challenge, putting Duluth in the hunt to win a $5 million grand prize or one of four runner-up awards, each...
Mayor Don Ness thinks he has an idea worth $1 million, or maybe even $5 million.
He has entered a first-ever competition called the Mayors Challenge, putting Duluth in the hunt to win a $5 million grand prize or one of four runner-up awards, each worth $1 million.
Ness was out of town Monday and unavailable for comment, but in a video laying out his plan to Bloomberg Philanthropies, the contest's sponsor, he described "a bold plan that could transform our entire downtown waterfront district into the most complete Energy Innovation District." He proposes upgrading the city's existing steam system to create a "zero-waste downtown."
"We can move away from our pre-industrial system -- which uses coal and steam -- and instead produce an energy-efficient, zero-waste downtown through a closed-loop energy development district using a district heating system and bio-mass," Ness said. "Most importantly, we have an economic development plan to create new business opportunities and jobs by capturing and cultivating the waste energy of the industries/natural assets located in our core city."
Ness assured Bloomberg that his hometown was ready to take a lead role in the transformation of its energy system.
"While Duluth has always taken pride in our stewardship of our incredible natural beauty, the 500-year flood we experienced this summer was a wake-up call," he said. Good enough is no longer good enough. Making incremental improvements at the margins just doesn't cut it. We're prepared to commit to transformational change. I can assure you, Duluth is up for the challenge."
As you might suspect, however, the competition will be stiff. Ness' proposal is just one of 305 received by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the contest's sponsor. In Minnesota alone, five cities submitted proposals. Duluth joins a field of competitors that includes Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Cloud and Rochester, as well as a long roster of cities large and small from around the nation.
Bloomberg describes its challenge as "a competition to identify bold ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life." The organization's stated ambition is to develop ideas that can spread and help other cities.
A team of judges will narrow the field to 20 finalist cities that will move on to the next level.
Michael Bloomberg, the contest's philanthropist namesake and the mayor of New York City, said in a statement that the Mayors Challenge submissions show the talent and creativity that exists in cities across the country.
"These bold and innovative ideas are the kinds of solutions needed to improve people's lives and move America forward," Bloomberg said. "Just narrowing the list down to 20 finalists will be a challenge in its own right."
Proposals will be scored on the basis of vision and novelty, potential for positive impact, potential for replication in other cities and the quality of implementation plans.
Bloomberg Philanthropies broke down the proposals it received into categories, with 20 percent focused on economic development, another 20 percent designed to engage citizens and spur innovation, 11 percent dedicated to improved sustainability, 10 percent promoting public health and 9 percent aimed at providing better education.