Future Focus at the 2021 Virtual Benefit Breakfast

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Last week, more than 475 people from Minnesota and across the country attended Fresh Energy’s Sixth Annual Benefit Breakfast. They took part in an inspiring conversation with our featured speaker, climate tech entrepreneur, Donnel Baird, and special guest, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (MN).

Held virtually for a second time, this year’s event emphasized the need for bold and ambitious federal, state, and local clean energy and climate leadership that tackles carbon pollution while creating family-sustaining jobs. You can view the entire program here.

Fresh Energy’s executive director, Michael Noble and Janiece Watts, Director of Culture and Partnerships, were back together onstage as co-hosts, facilitating an engaging program with a clear message: the time for action is now, and we need everyone working together to build a new climate economy.

Here are a few of our favorite highlights from the program: 

  • Senator Smith emphasized the urgency around delivering climate action at the scale of the crisis by delivering policy as strong as the Clean Electricity Performance Program she authored, arguing that, at this moment, “[climate action] is not something that we have to persuade people is a good idea, they’re saying, ‘let’s get going on this; let’s get this done.’”
  • We debuted a new staff video, covering a few of the ways our team is shaping and driving bold clean energy policy in Minnesota, the Midwest, and beyond. We guarantee you’ll want to watch it until the end!
  • Our board member and Event Chair, Eric Pasi, shared a personal climate story about his relatives on the island nation of Tonga whose way of life is threatened by climate change, “a threat that is not of their making but is now their burden.”  
  • Donnel Baird, founder and CEO of BlocPower, discussed the progress his business is making by using innovative software and heat pump technology to “turn buildings into Teslas.” He explained how retrofitting buildings to move them 100% off fossil fuels confronts multiple crises facing society by creating new family-supporting jobs, improving indoor air quality (and outdoor air quality in densely populated urban centers), and reducing carbon emissions.
  • We polled our guests to learn what actions they are taking to tackle climate change in their personal lives. 220 guests shared what they’re doing (or plan to do) in the results below:
How have you taken action for clean energy and climate
(or what do you plan to do in the near future)?
Number of respondentsPercentage of respondents
I drive an electric vehicle or electric bike9845%
I heat and cool my home with a heat pump3014%
I use an electric range or induction cooktop8338%
I have a solar array to power my home or belong to a community solar garden5425%
I use electric yard tools12758%
I opt into a green tariff to get my home energy from renewable sources (e.g. Windsource)12255%

Check out our new “Take Action for Climate and Clean Energy” booklet for ideas about how you can decarbonize your life. View and download your booklet here.

Special thanks to our event sponsors and table captains, Event Chair Eric Pasi, and everyone who logged in and made this event a success! Together, we raised $391,875 (and counting!) to support an equitable clean energy future.   

Missed the event, want to relive your favorite parts, or share the program with a friend? View the full event here or at the bottom of this page. And you can support Fresh Energy’s work to speed the transition to an equitable carbon neutral economy by making a donation today. 

Thank you to our event sponsors!

Title Sponsor

Innovation + Technology Sponsors

Match Pool Sponsors
Bird and Randy Anderson
Bremer Bank
Grid Catalyst
Mark and Kate Hanson
Hayden Family Fund
Ralph Jacobson and Cynthia Bartoo
Will and Claudia Kaul
Kristin Kelly and Jamal Knight
Sarah F. Lang Fund
Kevin Lawless and April Egan
James P. Lenfestey
Cotty Lowry and Laurie Jacobi
Mike Menzel and Kathy Iverson
Jan and Rick Neville
Michael and Patsy Noble
Chris O’Brien
Eric and Dana Pasi
William and Markell Rahr
Raj V. Rajan and Kavitha Sitaram
Federico and Nassim Rossi
Venkatesh Srinivas
VanSteenburgh/Ladner Family Fund
Kate Wolford and Ed Reilly
Mary Woollen and Clark Heindl

Visionary Partner Sponsors
Atomic Data
District Energy St. Paul
Ever-Green Energy
Houlihan Lokey
IPS Solar
Xcel Energy

Clean Energy Champion Sponsors
Apex Clean Energy
Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy
Conley Family Foundation
Connexus Energy Foundation
Design 45
Minneapolis Foundation
Chuck and Candice Nadler
Old National Bank
Sunrise Banks

Friends of the Future Sponsors
All Energy Solar
Best Buy
Blue Horizon Energy
CED Greentech Minneapolis
Cogent Consulting PBC
Elevation Communications
EVS, Inc.
Larkin Hoffman
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
New Energy Equity
Nokomis Energy
SPIRE Credit Union
Stoel Rives LLP