GPI’s History

For more than twenty years, the Great Plains Institute’s leaders and experts have built relationships with governments, businesses, communities, and across diverse viewpoints to power transformative solutions that improve people’s lives.

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Laying the Foundation

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.

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Powering the Plains

Powering the Plains, the Institute’s first major stakeholder process brings together utilities, environmental groups, regulators, elected officials, farmers and farm groups to develop the region’s first-ever consensus-based energy roadmap.

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Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System is Born

Based on recommendations from its “Powering the Plains” stakeholders, GPI worked with the Izaak Walton League and others to develop a new independent, third-party system to track the buying and selling of renewable energy credits (RECs). These RECs represent a specific amount of renewable energy production. M-RETS has improved the market for renewable energy by providing a fair, transparent, and credible vehicle for tracking RECs.


Minnesota Passes Ground-Breaking Law

Minnesota passes ground-breaking law fostering the development of zero-emission hydrogen and fuel cells as part of the state’s energy system, with specific provisions on deploying these technologies within state-owned facilities, vehicle fleets, and operations; and supporting development of multi-fuel refueling stations to diversify the state’s transportation fuel supply. GPI was instrumental in developing the law and helping secure its passage.


First-Ever Energy Transition Roadmap

Publication of Powering the Plains Energy Transition Roadmap, the region’s first-ever consensus-based 50-year energy strategy, which, in turn, formed the basis for ambitious energy and climate agreements agreed to by Midwestern governors and the premier of Manitoba later in the year.

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Delegation to Italy, Belgium and the United Kingdom

Educated participants on the technology readiness of carbon capture & storage technologies, and the pros/cons of European climate policy.

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Energy Security & Climate Stewardship Platform for the Midwest

Midwestern governors and the Premier of Manitoba adopt ambitious, bipartisan energy agreements: signing them at a major summit in Milwaukee, WI.

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Release of Recommendations to Achieve Midwestern Governors’ Energy Goals.

The Midwestern Governors Association releases the Midwestern Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Roadmap at a large gathering in Detroit, MI after two years of deliberation among representatives from industry, environmental groups, government, and others

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GreenStep Cities is Launched

GPI played a critical role in the development and deployment of this state-wide program, which provides 28 best practices and 172 discrete actions that cities can implement to achieve their efficiency and sustainability goals

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Unlocking the Midwest’s Clean Energy Potential

Midwestern Independent System Operator (MISO) approves package of 17 transmission lines that will help the region achieve its energy goals and unlock the Midwest’s clean energy potential. GPI played a pivotal, behind-the-scenes role in this milestone, ensuring that MISO’s transmission plans accounted for the region’s renewable energy goals, helping states identify their best Renewable Energy Zones, and supporting approval of a fair and equitable formula for sharing the costs of these lines among states.

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Delegation to Germany

GPI is the only non-profit organization invited to join a high-level U.S. legislative delegation to Germany to learn about the country’s aggressive plan for transitioning to 80% renewable energy by 2050. This trip and two more in 2012 and 2013 inspired the Minnesota Energy Future study described below under “2013.”


Delegation to Denmark

Delegation to Denmark: Built understanding about the potential for using biomass for energy at a much more efficient and larger scale, both in Minnesota and other parts of the U.S. with the right resource base.


Big Recognition for Communities Work

GreenStep Cities wins two Environmental Initiative Awards: Sustainable Communities Project of the Year and Partnership of the Year.


Delegation to Norway

The delegation laid the groundwork for cooperation on fossil and renewable energy development, technology demonstration and investment to help foster new energy opportunities between the energy‐rich country of Norway and North Dakota.

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Adding Capacity

GPI acquires two other non-profit entities—the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team and Envision Minnesota—adding to GPI’s capacity to help communities of all sizes achieve their sustainable development goals.

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Next Gen Energy

In Minnesota, GPI developed and helped pass important legislation in 2013, including broadening the state’s existing policy on ethanol to allow other biofuels to compete in the market, and expanding the technology investment options of the Next Gen Energy Board to include bio-based chemicals. Both pave the way for growing the bioenergy industry in the state.


Minnesota Energy Future Study

GPI helps craft new law setting in motion a Minnesota Energy Future study that will explore whether and how Minnesota might achieve a sustainable energy system that eliminates its contribution to the climate problem and grows the state’s economy at the same time.


The e21 Initiative

GPI’s nation-leading “e21” Initiative releases consensus recommendations to fundamentally reform Minnesota’s regulatory framework for utility regulation in ways that will benefit consumers, businesses, the economy, and the environment.

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The Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota

The GPI-convened Bioeconomy Coalition lays the groundwork for passage of legislation that positions Minnesota as the best place to develop advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biomass thermal projects.

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Engaging More Than 100 Cities

Made sustainability the norm for the more than 100 cities participating in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities (GSC) program. GSC has engaged more than 40 percent of the state’s population, added a new resilience best practice, and launched Step 4 which helps cities to create and track sustainability metrics.


The Government Solar Garden Subscriber Collaborative wins Environmental Initiative’s Community Action Award.

The Collaborative is a joint effort by and for 31 local governments in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan region to procure solar garden subscriptions generating a total of 33 of solar energy capacity.

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Groundbreaking Climate Action Plan in Minnesota

In a joint effort with LHB and Orange Environmental, the Great Plains Institute developed a climate action plan for the City of St. Louis Park. In adopting this plan the city became a leading example of a community moving from setting ambitious energy and carbon emission goals to laying out a roadmap for implementation.

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Carbon Capture Tax Credit Passed

Congress passes legislation to expand and reform a key tax credit called 45Q for deployment of carbon capture and storage projects in the United States. The legislation, introduced in 2017 as the FUTURE Act, received broad bipartisan support in Congress and was supported by state leaders and by an unprecedented coalition called the Carbon Capture Coalition (previously NEORI).