Tracking greenhouse gas emissions, understanding where emissions come from, and determining strategies to reduce them are all relatively new concepts for cities. In Minnesota, cities have been equipped over the last two years with a set of planning tools to establish emissions reductions and energy goals and develop strategies for meeting them through the state’s Local Government Project for Energy Planning (referred to as LoGoPEP). This blog describes how these tools are positioning cities across the state to plan for and achieve such goals, from setting renewable electricity goals to reducing energy consumption in buildings.

As we work with communities in Minnesota and across the Midwest, we see a growing number of cities set goals around clean energy resource deployment, greenhouse gas reductions, and energy efficiency implementation, and we expect this trend to continue. We estimate there are at least 28 communities that have set some kind of an energy goal in Minnesota, and we expect to see this grow as more drafts of community plans become public (e.g., comprehensive, energy, or climate action plans).

These goals have been set in city planning documents and through city policies (see the 100 percent renewable electricity resolution from Minneapolis). Programs like Xcel Energy’s Partners in Energy continue to evolve and support local efforts to increase clean energy and reduce energy consumption through the development of energy action plans in partnership with the utility.

Some communities are starting by working on smaller-scale goals or focusing on city operations before they move to a community-wide approach. Other communities are following the 2007 Minnesota State Legislature’s lead and adopting the greenhouse gas goals and/or clean energy goals of the state’s Next Generation Energy Act. And then there are the cities that are setting ambitious goals to be carbon neutral and/or achieve 100 percent renewable electricity as early as 2030.

Planning tools to boost city efforts on energy

LoGoPEP has fueled these efforts for the past two years, providing a suite of planning tools designed to help cities that want to include energy in their planning documents. The tools include the following:

  • A workbook and guide to get cities started
  • Existing energy conditions reports
  • A solar calculator and resource map
  • The “wedge diagram” tool

Energy Planning Workbook and Guide. The Energy Planning Workbook and Energy Planning Guide give users the basics in what to know about energy planning at the local level. These documents break down what should be considered when planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a community. The workbook is designed to be a high-level overview of the information needed for a complete energy use inventory. This includes existing conditions both for how energy is used in a community and the renewable resource available to a community. It also provides examples of how cities can address energy in their communities using regulatory and policy tools that are already available to them. The guide provides additional detail on how to acquire information and what it all means.

The Existing Energy Conditions Reports. These reports provide cities with a view of their existing energy data from buildings and transportation, which can be used as a baseline for setting goals and planning. This data includes electricity and natural gas consumption for residential, commercial, and industrial users, along with associated greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation data includes in-boundary emissions associated with vehicle miles traveled. This information gives cities a sense of how and where energy is used in their communities so that they can strategically set priorities to have the greatest impact on emissions reductions. The report also includes a solar resource map that indicates where there are rooftops with a good solar resource. The map allows for a calculation of the total available rooftop solar resource in a community which can be compared to the relative electricity consumption, allowing a city to set realistic in-boundary solar goals. Nearly 30 of these reports were developed for communities across the state.

Wedge Diagram Tool. This tool offers an interactive visualization of the impact various emissions reductions strategies have on a community’s energy emissions. Cities can use the tool to get a sense of the emissions reductions that can be achieved through actions taken by residents, businesses, utilities, and local and state governments. The tool uses an interactive diagram that shows how these reduction “wedges” impact forecasted city-wide greenhouse gas emissions from building energy consumption, starting with historic baseline data and a business-as-usual forecast.

Planning tools can assist cities at all stages

Many cities across Minnesota have capitalized on these tools and resources to provide the necessary staging for city-specific energy plans, goals, and actions. The types of communities that have utilized and benefitted from these tools are at varying stages of incorporating energy planning into their community processes. As momentum grows and more resources are made available there will be greater opportunity for cities to take charge and lead the efforts to achieve Minnesota’s greenhouse gas reduction and energy savings goals.

Acknowledgments: This work is supported by the Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), under Award Number DE- DE-EE0007229. This project was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The team includes energy planning specialists from LHBGreat Plains Institute, and the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab and Center for Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy. Additional financial support is provided by the McKnight Foundation and the Metropolitan Council.

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