Each of the five business leaders demonstrated their expertise in the clean energy and energy efficiency industry and provided an overview of their background and company while making the economic case for investing in clean energy.
The business case for clean energy
Clean energy means business
Gregg Mast, Executive Director at CEEM, kicked off the testimonies in each committee. He highlighted the importance of CEEM’s work at the legislature and discussed the opportunity to further the momentum of clean energy and energy efficiency in Minnesota.
“We want you to feel confident in championing or supporting legislation on clean energy and climate policies knowing it will drive further business growth while ALSO delivering benefits across our entire energy system and the economy as a whole.” – Gregg Mast, CEEM
Betsy Engelking, National Grid Renewables
Betsy Engelking, Vice President of Policy and Strategy at National Grid Renewables, and longtime Minnesota energy expert of 35 years, testified on the business case for wind and solar. In Engelking’s testimony, she said “Clean energy is an engine for job growth. Right now there are 3.2 million Americans employed by the clean energy sector as of 2022.” She elaborated on the continuation of job growth in the clean energy industry with wind turbine service technicians and solar photovoltaic installer jobs projected to be the fastest growing over the next decade. With the passing of the IRA, Engelking emphasized that Minnesota needs policies encouraging utilities to construct more transmission to supercharge clean energy growth and fully reap the benefits of the IRA.
Nina Axelson, Grid Catalyst
Grid Catalyst’s Founder and President, Nina Axelson encouraged state partners to work with clean energy business leaders to “catapult Minnesota to a leadership position in the global cleantech and energy market” through collaboration and investment. Axelson provided a graphic of Minnesota’s proposed Energy Alley to illustrate the programming needed to create intentional cross-sector collaboration and activity to elevate the clean energy innovation and market. Minnesota needs to get ahead in private and federal investment to create a foundation for startups and bolster the clean energy innovation system.
Satish Jayaram, Cummins
Satish Jayaram, General Manager in the PSBU Innovation Program Office at Cummins provided background and the pathway to Destination Zero, a strategy for Cummins to achieve zero emissions and support the transition to decarbonized power. Part of this strategy is through the electrolyzer at their Fridley power generation manufacturing facility – Cummin’s largest facility in the world. The green hydrogen produced from the facility could provide clean power to decarbonize hard-to-abate industries. Jayaram testified “We can’t reach zero emissions alone and we need a collaborative relationship with stakeholders and partners.” Minnesota needs to invest in innovations such as battery charging, hydrogen refueling, and associated infrastructure necessary to decarbonize transportation, power, generation, and heavy-duty transport.
Jim Steffes, Zeus Electric Chassis
Jim Steffes, Vice President of Business Development and Strategy at Zeus Electric Chassis, talked about the importance of Zeus’s work in decarbonizing the transportation sector with zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles. Trucks and buses make up 3% of the transportation sector, but produce 25% of all transportation emissions in Minnesota. Replacing one diesel school bus with the Pegasus bus built on Zeus’s cab and chassis, can reduce GHG emissions by 54,000 pounds each year. The legislature should consider and implement policy regulation that funds research and technology so companies like Zeus and the state can be provided with a diverse and well-trained clean energy workforce. After highlighting the need to utilize the IRA’s manufacturing grants and incentives, Steffes said “This funding will directly benefit Zeus and positively impact our suppliers, contract manufacturers, and most importantly assist Minnesota’s public and private fleets ready to adopt electrification now.”
Ken Smith, Ever-Green Energy
Ever-Green Energy’s CEO, Ken Smith, testified on the need for building decarbonization and opportunities. Smith cited a Commerce report that Minnesota wastes 64% of prime energy to building heating which could be repurposed for other use. As a state, we are not meeting our GHG emission reduction goals and our system is not built for it. He testified “Minnesota is taking action, but the system is not delivering the results that we want. Our GHG emissions are going up in the building sector, and the system efficiency within our prime energy use has been at about the same levels since 2010. The overall efficiency of the system and energy we are wasting has been very steady.” Smith emphasized many opportunities to change the system by closing open loops, integrating thermal energy, and creating policies regarding the decarbonization of building heating. Minnesota can be a champion in clean energy following suit of other countries taking action in decarbonization through a circular economy.
Clean energy means business
At CEEM, it is often said “clean energy means business” and we will continue to connect clean energy and energy efficiency businesses with the state legislature to push forward smart energy policy that moves Minnesota towards a clean energy future.