Gregg Mast, Executive Director of Clean Energy Economy Minnesota wrapped up the hour by thanking the group and encouraging all participants to engage with this material on social media. You can learn more on our 2022 Minnesota Energy Factsheet page, through our press release, and on our Twitter and LinkedIn.
Webinar Recap | 2022 MN Energy Factsheet Rollout
REVIEWING THE NATIONAL FACTBOOK AND THE MINNESOTA FACTSHEET DATA
To open, Lisa Jacobson, the President of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, welcomed the group and thanked everyone for their participation and effort in compiling this vital report.
Ethan Zindler of BloombergNEF, who compiled the report took over, starting with some high-level national trends from this year’s Factbook and then diving into the Minnesota Factsheet. He explains how recovery was dominant last year, all types of energy use was up in 2021 compared to 2020. Transportation was a key factor of the dip in 2020 and strongly rebounded in 2021 – but the overall consumption of the United States is still below pre-pandemic levels. He also explained that the amount of renewable energy built across the country was a clear victory in 2021 – in total, 24GW of new solar capacity was added – this is in part due to corporate demand, competitive pricing and tax incentives.
In Minnesota specifically, he began with the state’s improvements in energy productivity – which is the current GDP over sales of energy. This indicates how effectively the state is using energy. Minnesota has continued to improve this metric over time – including an increase to 29% in 2021 compared to 25% in 2020. He continued by reviewing the major trends found in the Factsheet this year and finished by discussing how the increase in corporate and market demand is really helping drive the industry forward.
PANEL DISCUSSION WITH INDUSTRY AND BUSINESS LEADERS
We were fortunate to be joined by four experts in Minnesota clean energy:
How do these data & trends translate to business opportunities?
Andy Kim: If you combine ESGs and the fact that it financially makes sense, this industry will continue to grow for years to come.
Liz Lachowitzer: The demand for clean power is off the charts, which allows for emerging markets to take off. There is more and more demand every day.
Becky Wacker: When we look at the facts, I get excited about it – we are a leader in the nation in energy efficiency, we are seeing the economy go that way and a lot of business opportunity coming from the innovation and interest from Minnesotans. I see the next phase moving into decarbonization of how we heat our spaces.
What advice do you have for business leaders & other decision-makers to seize the opportunity provided by the continued transformation of our energy system?
Andy Kim: Part of the reasons we have grown in this industry is because we take really good care of our people. It’s always been about the people. When we do that and they find the bigger purpose of being part of this industry is a key to our success.
Liz Lachowitzer: I think we are customer-focused and continuing to lean on the voice will be huge to drive new areas of growth and niche areas of the market to step into. Find new partners with passions.
Kevin Lee: When we think about business opportunities, it’s hard to imagine a ceiling. The buildout is huge. We need to think of the role of local communities and what it means for those people. We need innovative ways to design those projects to provide benefits for those communities.
Becky Wacker: Find someone you trust to help you look at the broad spectrum – I focus on the buildings, but you can find people to help you look at all of the different pieces.
We are still feeling impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic and all the instability in the global supply chain that resulted – talk about how / whether you’re seeing those in your business
Andy Kim: Our industry, in general, is volatile, it’s an emerging market and this is part of what we have to learn to deal with. This is a wild, fun, crazy industry. Uncertainty isn’t good for any industry.
Liz Lachowitzer: Yes, the impacts are still here. Not only that, but the market dynamics have changed, with the anti-circumvention investigation and the WRO, shipping and freight issues and the solar freeze have piled one thing on top of another. The dynamics are really volatile right now.
Kevin Lee: It’s hard to imagine any sector that hasn’t been impacted by these slowdowns.
Becky Wacker: There are big challenges – a big backlog is piling up – things are taking longer, and you have to be more creative and nimble.
Looking at how we are managing our grid, can you talk about how you see the role of storage and other new technologies and policies impacting the development?
Kevin Lee: I see a prominent role in new technologies, we are seeing an issue with access to transmission and we are seeing storage as a solution to that issue. The same goes for any technology allowing for load flexibility.
How are innovations opening up the market?
Becky Wacker: I see a lot of potential in thermal storage. I think decarbonizing our buildings is going to really open the market with heat pumps and all of the new technology to do this.
Andy Kim: Ten years ago, no one knew what an iPhone was and now everyone knows what they are. Ten years from now, that will be battery storage, it will be part of our everyday lives and there are a lot of opportunities in that. We are working on a new system that looks at putting the solar directly on the ground versus on racking – so there are innovations like this all over the market.
What is the greatest headwind for growing renewable energy in the next five years?
Andy Kim: The raw materials needed to make components for battery storage, electric vehicles, etc.
Kevin Lee: Access to transmission will be the biggest issue we face.
Liz Lachowitzer: The uncertainty — investors do not like uncertainty.
Becky Wacker: We are being challenged with the paybacks.
As you think about state and federal policies – where are the opportunities and challenges?
Liz Lachowitzer: I think we need to continue to let the market dictate where we go. We need to lean into the demand and what the industry needs and continue to do the right thing.
Becky Wacker: We think about it as the three pieces of the puzzle – regulatory, incentives and ESG goals and right now we are seeing all three very strongly. There is a lot of optimism about where we are today. The big challenge is workforce – the demands are booming and it is hard to hire in this fast-growing industry.
Kevin Lee: In terms of generation, I see some coming inflection points where we have large, planned retirements and that planning doesn’t get shovels in the ground. The more we can reckon with what the transmission means for local communities the better off we will be.
What is your top takeaway from today?
Andy Kim: I love being in this industry, when you combine the ESG and the financials, we have an unstoppable industry. There will be challenges, that we are dealing with right now, but it’s an industry we are all proud to work in.
Becky Wacker: I can’t help but be proud to be in Minnesota – we are leading the Midwest and pushing everyone else to be better and get on the bandwagon.
Liz Lachowiter: There are a ton of headwinds in the industry right now, but we are leaders in the industry and it’s up to us to continue to educate and promote a greener future.
Kevin Lee: I am an energy nerd at heart. I think it’s important to realize most people are not, most people experience clean energy through their bills and their neighbors or a project nearby. When you think about that, it has implications for how we plan for the transition and make sure this transition benefits everyone in Minnesota.
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