Clean energy voices fill the state Capitol

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Some 200 clean energy supporters filled the Minnesota Capitol this week for Clean Energy Business Day on March 4. This was the fourth annual Clean Energy Business Day presented by Clean Energy Economy MN, Center for Energy and Environment, Clean Grid Alliance, Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association and U.S. Green Building Council - Minnesota.

The full day of activities kicked off with the delivery of a proclamation from Governor Walz announcing the day was officially to be called ‘Clean Energy Business Day’ across the state.

“Minnesota’s nation-leading clean energy policies have set the table for innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses to make clean energy thrive; helping decarbonize our state as they create jobs and grow our economy,” reads Governor Walz’s proclamation. “Minnesota is home to 61,047 clean energy jobs. Clean energy encompasses thriving business sectors that are critical to the health and economic growth of our state and its citizens.”

The crowd was treated to remarks from Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley, who spoke about the clean energy business community’s many contributions to economic growth in the state and helping meet the Renewable Energy Standard seven years ahead of schedule. Chris Kunkle, Senior Manager of Government and Regulatory Affairs, with Apex Clean Energy also provided comments and noted that with each newly announced commitment from a utility or company for renewable energy there would be more important investments in rural communities that host these projects.

Over 90 attendees were scheduled to meet with their legislators, a record number of meetings for the day. Attendees also enjoyed remarks from legislators including Senator Dave Senjem (R-Rochester), Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park), Senator Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake), and Representative Jamie Long (DFL-Minneapolis). All four legislators have been champions for a variety of clean energy legislation from PACE financing, to Clean Energy First and the state’s community solar garden program.

We spoke to some of the attendees about what brought them to the Capitol this week. Here are their stories:

“A lot of people are setting 2030, 2040, 2050 net zero emissions goals, but there’s a disconnect between the current state of their business and how to get there. I work to bridge that gap. I’m here today to reinforce that message to legislators,” said Ben Wallace who works with Minify Energy.

“The relationships that I have a chance to develop with legislators and lawmakers are so far reaching. The work that we are able to do through those relationships results in strong solutions for consumers, businesses looking to reduce costs and for communities who are looking to create more affordable energy options for those who need it most,” said Tara Freimund, who works with Novel Energy Solutions.

“I really wanted to be here today because of the climate crisis. I’m not typically that involved in politics, but participating in an event that supports the expansion of renewable energy -- that is important to me and hopefully I can help try and make a difference,” said Rickey Sipila, a solar installer with CEEM-member TruNorth Solar and an Industrial and System Engineering Major at the University of Minnesota.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Capitol or who attended our happy hour event at Capitol Ridge. Your voices are so important as we work toward transitioning to a clean energy economy in Minnesota.

And finally, a big thank you goes out to our sponsors for the day Apex Clean Energy and Werner Electric. Cheers to a successful Clean Energy Business Day, and to working towards building a cleaner and stronger Minnesota economy for the future.