MN Chambers Meet with State Officials on Energy Innovation

Minneapolis Regional, Saint Paul Area, and Hibbing Area chambers of commerce cohosted a lively luncheon last week, putting a spotlight on Minnesota’s leadership in clean energy innovation and economic development.

The event brought together a public-private brain trust, including representatives from 15 local chambers, Governor Dayton’s cabinet, Senator Franken’s office, the St. Paul Port Authority, local utilities Xcel Energy and District Energy, Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board, Iberdrola Renewables, and Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy.

“Every one of our members is an energy consumer,” said Matt Kramer, CEO of the St. Paul Chamber. “If we can help our members save, it puts them and our region at a competitive advantage—nationally and internationally.”

Todd Klingel, CEO of the Minneapolis Chamber, said his members care deeply about clean energy opportunities. Many are generating energy offsite, launching new clean energy business models, or implementing efficient business operations.

Lory Fedo, President of the Hibbing Chamber, spoke about the Business Energy Retrofit program her chamber spearheaded to help members struggling with high utility bills.

Through a one-stop-shop approach, members can get a building energy audit and financing for efficiency improvements. More than 80 businesses have been awarded grants and loans between 2013 and 2015, driving $3.6 million worth of new clean energy investments.

The St. Paul Port Authority also highlighted its statewide clean energy financing, which could help fund the state’s estimated $200 million in clean energy project potential. “We can back any energy project in the state of Minnesota; and in 80% of the cases, ours will be the cheapest financing,” said Peter Klein, Vice President of Finance for the Port Authority.

Yet despite strong clean energy growth in Minnesota since 2000, the state still spends $13 billion annually to import fossil fuels for energy. ­­­Robin Sternberg, a member of Governor Dayton’s cabinet, shared her goal for bringing public and private sectors together to change this equation. “Instead of giving money [for energy] to other states, we can work together to invest more in our own business communities,” Sternberg said.