Over the last two years, the Great Plains Institute has gathered leaders at our annual Energy Innovation Collaboratory to think strategically about the trajectory of our common energy future and how to move forward on identified energy and climate game changers.

At our most recent Collaboratory, held in the fall of 2016, participants focused on identifying actions for the coming year that will put us on a trajectory to make progress on these game changers in Minnesota.

The purpose of organizing the Collaboratory is to accelerate innovation on energy and climate game changers by creating a space for collaboration, learning, and relationship building among a diverse set of influential leaders.

Game changers 

For the purpose of the Collaboratory, a game changer is defined as something that, if it happened, would result in transformative change for the energy system and would have large ripple effects. Game changers were chosen by Collaboratory participants through a pre-Collaboratory survey and include:

  • A plunge in solar prices sufficient to make fossil fuel-generated electricity non-competitive.
  • Cost-effective energy storage.
  • Electric vehicles with range and refueling time comparable to conventional vehicles.
  • New business models that align utility financial incentives with achieving a sustainable, low-carbon energy system.

Pathways to action

The Collaboratory was organized to identify actions that can be taken in Minnesota over the next year to accelerate selected game changers. Participants spent the first part of the day in small game changer teams to identify a problem statement, a goal, and a set of agreed upon actions. Next, teams working on the same game changer gathered to exchange ideas and develop a single pitch to share with the full group.

Here is a summary of the top actions identified by the group:

A. Solar

  • Execute an integrated marketing campaign about options, financing, and benefits.
  • Enact uniform, consistent statewide permitting and siting rules.
  • Invest in foundational grid technologies and advanced R&D demo/pilot projects.

B. Energy storage

  • Pull together a collaborative of local stakeholders to advance storage.
  • Identify how storage can help meet energy system needs (in Minnesota).
  • Develop a shared strategy for the legislature, commission, utilities, and other critical stakeholders (to support storage deployment).

C. Electric vehicles (EVs)

  • Incentivize sales – for buyers, employees, dealers, and service centers.
  • Pilot charging infrastructure.
  • Build EV transit and public fleet (100% EVs by 2025).

D. Utility business models  

  • Start the legislative process to evaluate: streamlined approvals of pilot projects by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission; a competitive state research, development, and deployment fund for learning; and an associated resource increase for regulators.
  • Initiate a stakeholder/research process to develop innovation criteria for a (regulatory) fast track process, such as: performance, time, money and risk profile, scalability and replicability, and geography.
  • Identify, recruit, and learn from customers to create opt-in services, models, programs, and technology testing to learn and manage risk based on customer interest.

The Collaboratory discussion focused on helping each team think through the proposed actions, including which stakeholders to engage.

Common themes around actions to take that emerged from the discussion include:

  • Create certainty for investors by making a clear commitment in Minnesota to the game changers (e.g., through policy).
  • Develop tools and conduct outreach activities that engage consumers.
  • Craft strategies to engage the stakeholders who will influence the trajectory of the game changer and/or be impacted (e.g., business, regulators, policy-makers, consumers, etc.).

We encourage organizations and leaders in Minnesota and beyond to use and share the ideas from the Collaboratory. In addition, GPI is working with Collaboratory participants to share the ideas for priority actions with leaders and organizations working on each game changer in Minnesota.

Download the 2016-2017 Collaboratory report here to read a synthesis of the discussion on each game changer pitch and view the graphic recordings of the day’s discussions (one example provided below). 

GPI’s Energy Innovation Collaboratory was made possible with support from The McKnight Foundation. Learn about The McKnight Foundation at: www.mcknight.org

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