Duluth staking its claim as Minnesota’s electric city

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As Minnesota continues to clean up its electric grid, one of the best ways to reduce emissions is to shift other parts of the economy into the electric sector. When it comes to transportation specifically, electric cars and buses can offer lower fuel and maintenance costs and improved air quality for neighborhoods. Those benefits have caught the eye of cities like Duluth, where strong leaders like Mayor Emily Larson are pushing the city to put their stake in the ground as clean energy leaders.

Heavy lift

The biggest bang for the buck in electrifying transportation is typically in public transit buses. Because they drive so many miles, the savings of using low-cost electricity compared to gas adds up quickly. Over the life of a transit bus, an electric model can save as much as $459,000 per bus on fuel and maintenance costs.

And because they produce no emissions, electric buses immediately improve the air quality in the neighborhoods along their route. Duluth is set to roll out the state’s first electric buses this spring. It’s been a heavy lift, but all the work done in Duluth can now inform the electrification process in communities across the state.

Making a splash

If electric buses are the heavy lift behind the scenes, then a public charging station powered by a solar canopy array is the big public splash. Duluth’s new Canal Park charging station will not only provide an easy to access charging station for visitors and residents alike, it will help add visibility to the city’s efforts to clean up its energy mix and transportation system.

It will provide a critical stop along a much longer charging corridor extending all the way from the Twin Cities to Lutsen. Even though a significant amount of someone’s charging will be done overnight at home, regional charging infrastructure across the state helps in a practical and psychological sense. It’s there when you actually need to charge, but it also reduces the anxiety someone might feel when they plan out their first long trip.

Step by step

Buses offer the biggest improvement in terms of air quality and savings and public chargers offer a nice splash of public awareness but electrifying the city fleet can add offer a little bit of both. As part of the Volkswagen Settlement, Minnesota is in line to receive up to $47 million over the next ten years to help address diesel pollution. While these funds will be used for a variety of solutions—including charging stations, electric school and transit buses, and more—one that interests cities in particular is the change to add electric vehicles to their local fleet.

Of the hundreds of comments that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency received as part of their comprehensive statewide public engagement process, a significant portion spoke to the need to electrify cars and buses–fleet vehicles in particular.

Lead by example

As more communities across Minnesota look to take ambitious action toward their clean energy goals, Fresh Energy is proud to offer in-depth research and analysis to help them move forward. Duluth’s progress in electrifying their transportation system is a clear example for how local leadership can help Minnesota move forward on energy.

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