Q&A With UMN Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson on the Local Government Project for Energy Planning

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Post date: September 26, 2017
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GPI’s Diana McKeown, who directs the Metro region of Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Teams, interviews Ellen Anderson, Executive Director of the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab, about an important new project to help communities reach and measure progress toward emission reduction goals.

McKeown: What does LoGoPEP stand for?

Anderson: Local Government Project for Energy Planning (LoGoPEP)

Mckeown: What is the goal of LoGoPEP?

Anderson: LoGoPEP builds upon existing efforts to engage local governments in committing to actionable strategies for energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions. LoGoPEP will provide communities with planning tools and actual results to measure progress toward their goals. This project is being developed at the Twin Cities metropolitan regional scale with the goal of future replicability and institutionalization throughout the state.

Mckeown: When will there be information that can be shared with other cities so they can incorporate those ideas and thinking into their comprehensive plans?

Anderson: We have resources that cities can utilize NOW!

We have been engaging a group of local government partners as key stakeholders in developing a set of energy planning tools and resources.

 

We have had some resources available to cities for some time including:

  • case studies of energy strategies implemented by exemplar cities
  • a brief guide on how to incorporate energy and/or climate resilience in a city’s request for proposals
  • supporting ongoing energy and emissions tracking through the development and testing of an automated online database for Regional Indicators Initiative data
  • creating an Implementation Model to guide future work using lessons learned throughout the project

 

Our team is pleased to announce our new, free energy planning tools available for cities to use:

  • Energy Planning Guide: a basic framework for addressing energy use, energy resources, and energy development in the comprehensive plan process  
  • Energy Planning Workbook: a step-by-step guide for energy planning from defining existing conditions to setting achievable aspirational goals with proven strategies
  • Solar Calculator: a tool to help cities understand their available solar resources and set solar electricity goals
  • Wedge diagram tool for energy and greenhouse gas reduction planning with an associated menu of feasible city actions. NOW AVAILABLE!

Additionally, we are hosting a webinar to train cities to use the energy planning tools. The first webinar will be October 12th

 

Mckeown: What is the current status of the project and pilots?

Anderson: LoGoPEP began in January 2016 and is funded through 2018. The LoGoPEP team is currently developing the energy planning tools. We have just released new tools and, as mentioned above, we will host a webinar to help local governments integrate energy planning into their comprehensive plans.

As the tools are being developed in conjunction with work being started on comprehensive plans, local governments are encouraged to include an energy planning component as they define the scope and schedule of their planning efforts.

The latest tool we have developed is called a “wedge diagram” tool, which is a visual representation of a city’s energy or greenhouse gas reduction goals along with a menu of feasible city actions to meet those goals.  Here’s a sample:

 

This tool will be a user-friendly way for cities to deploy a research-based suite of action steps to measure progress and meet their goals. 

 

Mckeown: What are you learning so far that was surprising?

Anderson: One, that implementation really happens at the local level. Two, that to reach a consensus on setting aspirational goals can take time, but it’s just as important to have a detailed plan for how to achieve goals and measure results. For example, if a city wants to meet the state’s Next Generation Energy Act goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2025 and 80% by 2050, a lot of choices and tradeoffs have to be made to be successful. Often city operations can yield great results, but then scaling it up to the whole community is another challenge. The good news is that there are lots of other cities around the region and the world that have experiences we can learn from, and this will be part of our toolbox for cities.

I’ve been so impressed by the high ambitions of cities around Minnesota and the nation, where hundreds of mayors have stepped up to say they will lead the way to reduce carbon emissions.  

Mckeown: How will the information be shared with cities that are interested?

Anderson: This fall, we plan to offer a free webinar and in-person workshop to help cities learn how to use the tools. Cities will also have the opportunity to benefit from peer experience when other cities share success stories and lessons learned.

Mckeown: Who should cities contact if they are interested in getting more information or attending the webinar?

Anderson: Stay tuned to the LoGoPEP website at http://www.regionalindicatorsmn.com/energy-planning

Mckeown: Anything else we should know about the project?

Anderson: Our team is working to create an online portal to help cities with a wealth of other information they need to make and meet ambitious energy and carbon goals.

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