In April, five Minnesota cities were chosen to participate in the German Energy Partnership: Rochester, Warren, Elk River, Duluth, and Morris. The partnership sponsors include Germany’s federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Industry, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and Natural Resources Research Institute, among others.
In July, each Minnesota city was paired with a German city and sent delegates to discuss strategies for tackling future energy challenges and tour environmentally friendly energy facilities.
Project leader Sabine Engel says Minnesota and Germany have both chosen to focus on energy solutions at the municipal level because local communities have been shown to inspire national, regional and state policy. Ultimately, she says, the hope is that participating communities will share their progress and strategies with other Minnesota communities, boosting local economies and achieving Minnesota’s state goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions at least 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Since September, I have attended two dinners at the University of Minnesota featuring partnership participants and facilitators, where panelists answered questions about what they have learned; differences in politics and policies between Minnesota and Germany; and what they see as opportunities. I also attended a lunch in Rochester where the German delegation members were our guests and officials from the local community and the mayor of Münster presented (our German partner city).
As the incoming chair of the Rochester Energy Commission–which put together an Energy Action Plan last spring that is still awaiting approval by the council–I have high hopes for what the partnership could bring to the commitment we are making to renewable energy and efficiency in the city. With key figures like Senator David Senjem and Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede continuing to be strong champions for the need for an ambitious and focused approach to moving energy forward in the community, and the ideas that our delegate can bring back to enrich the plan. I hope to see 2017 be a different year of significant progress on reaching our goals.