History

In 1997, a small group of people had an idea. What if there was a place where people with different opinions about how to provide clean, secure energy for generations could come together and create common solutions? Through a grant from the Northwest Area Foundation, the Great Plains institute for Sustainable Development was born.

The Institute’s early years were spent documenting and sharing extraordinary examples of economic ingenuity and environmental stewardship from across the Northern Plains. Many compelling stories were collected and published in a series of books called Renewing the Countryside. We realized relatively quickly, however, that energy and climate change presented the greatest opportunities for impacting the sustainability of the region and the world. Providing solutions to these two challenges remains our passion and commitment to you.

Our first major initiative, Powering the Plains (PTP), focused on realizing the region’s full energy potential while adding value to agriculture, stimulating economic development, and reducing the risks of global warming. PTP was founded on the premise that much of the debate over climate change was mistakenly focused on how much the problem would cost rather than on the opportunities it presented to a region rich in both ingenuity and resources. This initiative resulted in the region’s first-ever consensus-based 50-year Energy Transition Roadmap which led to nine Midwestern governors and the premier of Manitoba signing ambitious energy and climate agreements in 2007. PTP was also the proving ground for our collaborative process methodology, solidified our productive and on-going relationship with the Midwestern Governors Association, and formed the pathway for much of our current program priorities.

Our work continues to serve the core states in which we are incorporated—Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin—and the Midwest more generally, including the Midwestern Governors Association, but as we have grown, we have also expanded our focus from regional to national to international. We partner with individuals and organizations from across the country and have led delegations representing industry and government to various countries to foster the exchange of best practices in energy innovation, starting with a four-country tour to Northern Europe in 2003.

Click here to view some of our major milestones over the years.

While our name doesn’t tell you much about what we do, we hope you’ll come to think of the Great Plains Institute as a group of trusted  “energy diplomats.” We not only exist to bring clarity to the confusing world of energy and climate change, but to find and foster common ground where none was thought possible.