Delivering on the Promise: 8th Annual Benefit Breakfast celebrates success, plans future

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On the morning of Thursday, October 12, 2023, more than 700 people from across Minnesota and the nation attended Fresh Energy’s 8th Annual Benefit Breakfast, with 550 with us in Saint Paul, to hear an inspiring presentation from featured speaker and climate tech entrepreneur Ramez Naam, meet Fresh Energy’s new executive director Brenda Cassellius, and enjoy a few high-energy videos—including a special message from Stacey Abrams with Rewiring America.

Fresh Energy and our Benefit Breakfast guests—a community of long-time and new Fresh Energy supporters, friends, partners, and collaborators—joined together in person and virtually to celebrate the historic clean energy and climate policy successes of 2023. All eyes are on Minnesota as we take stock of all that we’ve accomplished in the past year and ensure these policies are implemented and deployed equitably. We’re keeping an eye to the future: the stakes have never been higher, and it’s time to rapidly build a clean future for all Minnesotans.

Here are our favorite highlights from the event:

Fresh Energy’s board chair Jacquie Johnson kicked off the program sharing Fresh Energy’s mission and purpose of the event:

“We are here today because we all care deeply about an equitable, clean energy future where everyone can thrive. Fresh Energy is celebrating more than three decades of driving high-impact and innovative clean energy policies across Minnesota and the Midwest.”

We watched a guest video message from Stacey Abrams, who you might know as a former Georgia State Representative, or from her work on issues like voting rights, environmental justice, health equity, economic empowerment—or her new role at Rewiring America. Watch her video below!

“Every time we as a society have faced challenges, when we band together and refuse to let the worse angels win, we make progress,” said Abrams. “I encourage you to speak up, show up, and stand up. Together, we can get good done.” 

Executive Director Brenda Cassellius thanked Stacey and shared her experience in driving meaningful change through effective policy. Brenda noted how we are at a critical time in history as we are seeing, and living, the effects of climate change, including more extreme weather events.

“One thing I’ve learned since starting at Fresh Energy is that there is hope—and solutions—and that if we work together, we can change the course of history. And I am blown away by the passion, generosity, and dedication of our community—and everyone in this room—who are making a better world now and for generations growing up today.”

Brenda elaborated on how impactful the 2023 Minnesota Legislative Session was for climate and clean energy policy, from the landmark 100% clean electricity law, which puts Minnesota on track to run on carbon-free electricity by 2040, to the establishment of the State Competitiveness Fund which ensures Minnesota can take full advantage of federal funding for energy and climate—to name just two of the new policies!

“Even with all of this amazing progress, we still have so much more we need to do, together, to meet the moment and deliver on our promise.”

A crucial part of Fresh Energy’s work is what’s called the “Energy Transition” in which “decarbonization” plays a big role. The term decarbonization is still new to many people! To help explain the concept, Fresh Energy debuted an animated explainer video.

We are all part of Minnesota’s energy transition. And thanks to the federal Inflation Reduction Act and the new Minnesota laws just passed, there are new incentives, tax credits, and rebates to help us kick carbon out of our lives. But getting a handle on what these new resources are can be tricky! Which is why Fresh Energy created an online “Electrification and You” resource!

Featured speaker Ramez Naam, a futurist, author, and climate tech whiz, walked us through the latest market trends in renewables, energy storage, and electric transportation. Ramez is an internationally known speaker on clean tech innovations and ambitious, actionable clean energy policies.

“In places with exceptionally good sun and wind, it is cheaper to build a new solar farm or a new wind farm than it is to keep operating an already-built and paid-for gas or coal plant,” Ramez said. “Here in Minnesota, you’ve been leaders. Thank you for amazing progress in taking action on climate change and committing to decarbonizing the grid entirely.”

“I am honored to be here with an organization that is working to accelerate this transition, and I think the most important thing we can do is continue to take action.”

Learn more about Ramez.

We debuted a new, short video of Executive Director Brenda Cassellius hosting a round-table discussion with five students from Richfield Public School’s Green Team to listen to them discuss climate change and hear their concerns for the future, as well as their hope.

Fresh Energy Board Treasurer Ellen Palmer shared the importance of generosity, purpose, and people: how giving back and supporting Fresh Energy’s expertise in creating a just, prosperous, and carbon-neutral economy is more important than ever before.

After another year of wildfires, floods, and extreme weather events—including the hottest month in earth’s recorded history—the challenge of decarbonizing our lives has never been clearer. And Fresh Energy is meeting the moment and making positive change. We’ve only just begun our journey to create a just and equitable carbon-free economy, and the time is now to enact bold, positive change.

Special thanks to our event sponsors and table captains, and everyone who joined us in-person and virtually to make this event a success! Together, we raised $510,000 to continue creating a clean future where all can thrive.

If you missed the event, are looking to experience it again, or want to share the event with a friend, view the full event here or by watching the video below. And, check out these great photos of the event. Support Fresh Energy’s important work by making a donation today.

Thank you to our event sponsors!

Title Sponsor

Fair of the Future Sponsor

VIP Meet and Greet Sponsors
Atomic Data
Enterprise Energy
Minnesota Power
Xcel Energy

Match Pool Sponsors
Bird and Randy Anderson
Mark and Kate Hanson
Kathy Iverson and Mike Menzel
Sarah F. Lang Fund
Kevin Lawless and April Egan
Cotty Lowry and Laurie Jacobi
Jan and Rick Neville
Michael and Patsy Noble
Chris O’Brien and Jane Alexander
Eric and Dana Pasi
William and Markell Rahr
Federico and Nassim Rossi
Van Steenburgh/Ladner Family Fund
Kate Wolford and Ed Reilly

Clean Energy Champion Sponsors
Best Buy
Clean Grid Alliance
Connexus Energy
U.S. Bank

Friends of the Future Sponsors
Arc Initiatives
Bremer Bank
Climate Generation
Merritt Clapp-Smith and Craig Smith
Conley Family Foundation
Ever-Green Energy
Grid Catalyst
Keystone Compensation Group LLC
Otter Tail Power Company
Raj Rajan and Kavitha Sitaram
Strategen Consulting Inc.
Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.
Mary Woollen and Clark Heindl

In-Kind Sponsors