This blog is one in a series of stories celebrating the wide-variety of professionals who have been touched by the Great Plains Institute (GPI). Together – GPI’s spring 2020 fundraising campaign – showcases people who work in multiple industries and have various constituents and customers, but all play an important role in helping America transform its energy system.
NAME: Keith Reopelle
AFFILIATION: Dane County, Wisconsin
TITLE: Director of the Office of Energy and Climate Change
Forty Years of Clean Energy Advocacy and Climate Action
Keith Reopelle has dedicated his entire career to clean energy, the environment, and the mitigation of climate change. He views climate change as the world’s biggest threat and most pressing issue. He started his career advancing the energy transformation in 1982 as the policy director at Clean Wisconsin, a 50-year-old, state-wide environmental policy organization. He later transitioned to government service and now leads the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change.
Collaborative, Multi-Sector Efforts Drive Progress on Clean Energy
Keith got to know the Great Plains Institute (GPI) in 2007 when GPI facilitated the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, the result of a summit with 12 of the region’s governors, co-chaired by then-governors Jim Doyle (D-WI) and Tim Pawlenty (R-MN). This initiative made an incredible impact on the energy transformation in the Midwest.
After the accord was signed in 2008, there was significant activity in Congress to develop policies to address the climate crisis. The network of relationships established by the Midwest accord evolved to address how federal climate policies could create the best possible outcomes for the region. A new initiative, the Midcontinent Power Sector Collaborative (MPSC) was formed. When Congress failed to pass climate legislation, activity shifted to the regulatory arena and the Environmental Protection Agency started a regulatory process that would become the Clean Power Plan. This is when MPSC became one of the most successful clean energy initiatives in the United States. MPSC engagement made up the base of comments from the Midwest on the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.
More Private Sector Leadership on Decarbonization
Keith says one of the great results of GPI’s facilitation competencies and in-house expertise is increased private sector leadership on difficult climate and environmental issues. Keith shared that when the Obama administration ended, many clean energy advocates feared a loss of critical momentum on climate. However, instead of a loss of momentum, the MPSC not only provided an invaluable Midwestern perspective to the Clean Power Plan, but in more recent years the group has quite literally built the road map to decarbonization in the region’s transportation and electricity sectors.
Keith says that Midwestern utilities deserve a lot of credit for keeping their carbon emission reduction goals even though the federal government, and some state governments, have receded from a position of leadership on climate and clean energy. This is in no small part due to the MPSC, where utilities stayed at the table after their work on the Clean Power Plan. Utility targets for net-zero carbon electricity were not in place before these processes.
Inclusive Multi-Sector Strategy is the Only Strategy
As a clean energy leader, Keith credits GPI for being instrumental in one of the most important innovations in the field: the development and use of multi-stakeholder facilitation.
Over the past decade, Keith says that “diverse stakeholder facilitation has become the only way to get things done on clean energy and environmental issues in the state of Wisconsin and many other states.” Without the engagement and consensus of industry leaders, labor organizations, government agencies, and others, new legislation and regulatory action on climate and environmental issues are not possible. GPI’s pioneering approach kept progress going on clean energy throughout the 2010s even after Congress could not pass federal legislation.
Keith describes GPI as a leading clean energy organization in the Midwest because its strategy to reach a zero-carbon economy is inclusive of multiple areas and approaches, including the power sector, transportation, carbon capture, and local government. GPI’s program portfolio is paired with some of the best strategic, legal, and politically astute minds in the clean energy policy area. Keith says because of GPI’s thought leadership across its Midwestern and increasingly national geography, state-level advocacy organizations can devote more resources to direct advocacy and coalition building. Regardless of political shifts or inactivity on clean energy, MPSC and GPI provide a collaborative network to make progress on carbon reductions, including utility efforts to be even bolder in their quest for deep decarbonization.
We hope that you enjoyed learning about how Great Plains Institute is a vital partner in Keith’s mission to conquer the climate challenge. We invite you to support this continued work. Now through June 30 Madison Gas and Electric will match all gifts up to $15,000 through our Together campaign.