GPI 20th Anniversary Leadership Interview Series: Vice President Doug Scott, Electricity and Efficiency

February 12, 2019 in Efficiency, Electricity Author: Gail Nosek

Over the last year, the Great Plains Institute (GPI) celebrated our 20th anniversary as an organization dedicated to transforming the energy system to benefit the economy and environment. As GPI staff, partners, and supporters reflect on the progress we’ve made together and look ahead to future opportunities for even greater impact in 2019 and beyond, we’re sharing a Q&A series we’ve created with our CEO and program leadership team.  Continue reading »

Opportunities to Increase Small Business Engagement on Energy

December 11, 2018 in Communities, Efficiency Authors: Jordana Palmer, Matt Kazinka, Trevor Drake

In 2014, we wrote about “A New Approach to Small Business Energy Efficiency,” in which we described the unique barriers—time, knowledge, and trust—that small businesses face in identifying and enacting energy efficiency improvements. We proposed that the best solution may not be a technological one, but a social one—partnering with individuals who have existing relationships with small businesses in their community and training them as “energy coaches” who can provide the commitment, information, and trust that resource-limited business owners require. Continue reading »

Improving Standby Rate Design Would Help Industries Increase Efficiency, Reduce Emissions, and Save Money

March 13, 2018 in Efficiency Authors: Anna Dirkswager, Jamie Scripps

What is Combined Heat and Power?

Combined heat and power (CHP) is a system that not only generates electricity, but also harnesses the thermal energy from power generation for heating and cooling applications (typically burning natural gas for electricity and capturing the exhaust for steam heat). By combining these two processes, some CHP systems can achieve thermal efficiencies of 60-80 percent, which is up to twice the efficiency of traditional power generation. Continue reading »

Analysis: Cost and Emission Benefits of Increased Demand Response in the MISO Region

January 31, 2018 in Efficiency, Electricity Authors: Matt Prorok, Steve Dahlke

Energy Meter

A recently published working paper by the Great Plains Institute (GPI), titled “Consumer Savings, Price, and Emissions Impacts of Increasing Demand Response in the Midcontinent Electricity Market,” explores the effects of increasing the use of demand response (DR) assets in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s (MISO) wholesale energy market. Continue reading »

Workshop Focuses on Energy Policy Trends in America’s Heartland

December 22, 2017 in Efficiency Authors: Doug Scott, Jill Rook


Important issues in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) were the focus of “Powering the Plains and Beyond: Energy Policy in America’s Heartland,” a workshop held in Austin, TX on December 11, 2017. Organized by the Great Plains Institute, this workshop gathered panels of experts to examine energy development and trends within the fourteen states in the SPP footprint and the potential expansion of SPP in the future. Continue reading »

Analysis: Electric Vehicles Provide Even Greater GHG Reductions in 2017 and Beyond for the Upper Midwest

May 15, 2017 in Efficiency, Transportation & Fuels Author: Dane McFarlane

EV Vehicle Graphic

GPI recently updated our previous analysis to explore the emission reductions achieved by driving an electric vehicle (EV) in specific regions in the Midwest. The updated analysis affirms and strengthens our finding that driving EVs, in comparison to gasoline vehicles, can provide significant greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reductions, with increasing reductions expected in coming years for both Minnesota (the focus of our initial analysis) and the Upper Midwest.

Continue reading »

Hutchinson Community Takes EnergyStar Challenge

August 3, 2016 in Efficiency Author: Maddie Norgaard

On April 21st, dozens of local leaders representing churches, businesses, and nonprofits throughout the City of Hutchinson gathered together at Faith Lutheran Church on Main Street to learn about energy efficiency and kick-off the ENERGY STAR® Challenge.

The ENERGY STAR® Challenge is a statewide effort led by a partnership between the Great Plains Institute, the Minnesota Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, and Energy Smart – a program of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. The goal of the program is to increase the number of ENERGY STAR® certified buildings in Minnesota, and to provide support for local energy efficiency efforts.

Each building that signs up for the ENERGY STAR® Challenge receives a free energy audit and energy conservation advice from an energy efficiency specialist with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. The Challenge also offers free energy benchmarking—a tool to track building energy consumption over time and identify areas for improvement. If a building lands in the top 25thpercentile, building owners can seek ENERGY STAR® Certification with the costs of certification completely covered by the program. In short, this means that for no cost, building owners can receive free energy efficiency assistance to improve a building or business’ bottom line, the benefits of which will be realized for years to come.

Buildings that are ENERGY STAR® certified use an average of 35% less energy than typical buildings. Studies have shown that buildings that are benchmarked tend to save around 7% in energy use simply because someone is monitoring energy consumption. In 2007, the Minnesota State Legislature recognized the value of energy efficiency and set a goal to achieve 1,000 ENERGY STAR® certified buildings by 2010. Six years have passed since the end date of that goal and the state has approximately 650 buildings certified. The ENERGY STAR® Challenge is an effort to increase that number through direct outreach and technical assistance.

Hutchinson was selected as a Community Partner in the ENERGY STAR® Challenge because of its thriving local business community and sustained commitment to environmental issues. Known as “Minnesota’s Hometown,” Hutchinson is a community where residents and visitors alike love to shop, do business, attend religious service, and just spend time. As a community partner, the City is investing in keeping Hutchinson that way by offering assistance to the buildings that help make Hutchinson beautiful. Not only can businesses improve their bottom line by pursuing energy efficiency, they can also improve the environment. Hutchinson is a beautiful city because it’s a place where a thriving business and faith community meets a picturesque natural environment and landscape. The ENERGY STAR® Challenge strengthens both of these elements by providing environmental assistance that is just as smart financially.

Businesses and nonprofits all over Hutchinson are already recognizing the benefits of the program and signing up for the Challenge. Faith groups have perhaps been the most enthusiastic to participate in the Challenge and sign-up. When a faith community communes around a sanctuary, it is only natural to care deeply about that building’s operations. In fact, the kickoff event was held at Faith Lutheran Church because of the efficiency efforts the congregation has already taken. As part of a large facility upgrade in 2010, a geothermal heating and cooling system was installed to offset HVAC load and costs. Because of this, the building runs efficiently and saves money each year. A number of local businesses and other nonprofits have signed-up as well. Will your building be next? Sign-up now at!