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Winter 2019 Newsletter: Clean Energy in Rochester

Turning the Tides in Half a Decade

Anna Richey, Southern MN Regional Manager

As Anna Richey, Southern Minnesota Regional Manager, was just settling into her role in 2014, Conservation Minnesota sent an energy survey to residents in several communities, including Rochester. The results were overwhelmingly positive, showing around 80% support for clean energy and utility leadership. Yet, Anna was told Rochester’s municipal power structure made renewable energy unreasonable and unaffordable for the community.

Despite this skepticism, the survey became the impetus for Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) to conduct their own clean energy survey. As it turned out, our results were conservative and community support was closer to 85%. With this information in hand, Rochester began to take action.

With a regional manager in the Rochester community, we were ready to engage. Anna made sure she had a seat at the table for the subsequent stakeholder meetings. She gave a voice to the many reasons clean energy is good for the community—economically and environmentally. And in early 2015 she was asked to serve on the City’s Energy Commission. 

During the last 5 years, Rochester has evaluated its energy portfolio, developed and adopted an Energy Action Plan, and hired new staff to address the changing picture of energy delivery and management, and Anna was involved throughout the process. Last summer, RPU put forward a first-of-its-kind proposal for a municipal utility—be 100% renewable by 2050 and achieve 50% renewable energy by the time their current power contract expires in 2030. This commitment to a clean energy transition will make the city a pioneer in energy the same way it’s long been a pioneer in medical innovation and computer technology.