History

Founded in 1990 and incorporated in 1992, Fresh Energy is a widely recognized nonprofit leader, with a proven track record for achieving measurable progress toward a strong and prosperous Minnesota energy economy.

Fresh Energy was originally formed under the name Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy as an alliance of organizations working on energy conservation, economic development, environmental protection, neighborhood issues, and civic engagement. In 2006 we changed our name to Fresh Energy to better reflect the broader scope of our organization.

Fresh Energy is committed to working effectively with Minnesota leaders, public and private partners, and individual residents who care about the future of our energy system and economy.

The summaries below provide highlights of some recent benefits to Minnesota as a result of our work:

2019

Renewable natural gas pilot ruling. Fresh Energy successfully argues against CenterPoint Energy’s pilot to offer renewable natural gas from landfills, sewage, and livestock manure to their customers. Our team of experts cites concerns about its transparency, costs, and out-of-state gas sourcing. The Public Utilities Commission denies CenterPoint’s request, thanks to our strong testimony.

Public schools energy benchmarking. After five hard years of Fresh Energy advocacy and work, the legislature passes a bill that requires public schools to track their energy usage over time. By comparing a school building’s energy use to itself and to peers, districts can identify opportunities for improvement in performance. Across the state, two-thirds of Minnesota schools benchmark—and they’ve already have identified over $10 million in cost savings.

Reporting for solar farm vegetation. The legislature passes a ground cover reporting requirement for solar farms due to Fresh Energy’s advocacy work. The requirement stipulates that solar developers complete a copy of Minnesota’s pollinator-friendly scorecard and file it with the Board of Water and Soil Resources once every three years to report on the pollinator-friendly land management practices in their solar projects. The new law is an important and incremental step to demonstrate productive use and stewardship of the land under and around solar farms.

100 percent carbon-free energy. Governor Tim Walz officially announces his Administration’s support for a 100 percent carbon free electricity standard. The 100 percent commitment is the centerpiece of a package that also includes Clean Energy First, a reform of the Conservation Improvement Program and important worker/local hiring provisions. Fresh Energy’s Executive Director, Michael Noble, was personally invited by the Governor to speak at the press conference.

Rooftop solar incentive program. In early 2019, Xcel Energy launches its first-ever income-eligible rooftop solar incentive program, which was shaped in large part by Fresh Energy’s advocacy. The new program introduces upfront incentives to help bring down the initial costs of solar installations, and pairs those immediate incentives with production-based incentives so that customers receive ongoing financial benefits.

Energy disclosure ordinance. City of Minneapolis councilmembers passes a historic, city-wide ordinance requiring multifamily building owners to better track energy usage in their buildings, and also calling for home sellers and landlords to provide prospective buyers and renters access to energy information before they move in. Fresh Energy participated in and led various stakeholder meetings to strongly encourage the City to pass this important ordinance.

2018

Xcel Energy 100 percent carbon-free energy. After years of Fresh Energy advocacy work building the case for increased carbon-free electricity, Xcel Energy, Minnesota’s largest utility, makes a groundbreaking announcement. The utility has set a goal to be 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050, with an 80 percent reduction by 2030 as the near-term benchmark.

University of Minnesota remains in Conservation Improvement Program (CIP). With strong advocacy from several clean energy groups, including Fresh Energy, the University of Minnesota remains in a statewide energy efficiency program.  The University formally withdrew a petition that would have partially exempted it from paying into the Conservation Improvement Program, which encourages the administration of energy efficiency incentives for low-income utility customers, like students.

Electric charging infrastructure. The Public Utilities Commission files an order to boost electric vehicle sales by directing utilities to support public electric vehicle charging stations, raise customer awareness of their many benefits and allow overnight charging rates. This progress directly reflects a suite of actions Fresh Energy has been pushing through expert testimony to the Commission over the past five years and is a key step in helping utilities lead the transition to clean electric transportation.

Metro Transit’s fleet electrification. After cancelling a large request for proposals for new diesel buses, Metro Transit announces their plans to fully electrify their bus fleet by 2040. As part of the Coalition for Clean Transportation and through work with utility and Metro Transit leaders, Fresh Energy played a key role in driving a transition to electric buses, which will cut carbon pollution, strengthen the grid with renewable electricity, and reduce air pollution in our communities.

Beneficial Electrification. To broadly support our strategic imperative of electrifying the entire economy, Fresh Energy expands to hire a beneficial electrification expert to lead our policy and programmatic research in this area.

Pollinator-Friendly Solar Scorecard inclusion. Xcel Energy approves the usage of the state specific pollinator-friendly solar scorecard in its future solar request for proposals process. Use of this scorecard, which was developed with leadership by Fresh Energy and a broad coalition of advocates, sets the stage for ensuring that Xcel’s many future solar sites will be planted with deep-rooted grasses that will create pollinator habitat as well as improve water quality and sequester carbon.

Energy Access and Equity. Fresh Energy launches a director-led initiative to better incorporate equity into renewables, efficiency, and other policy work across the energy system and to strengthen the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We expanded to include a full-time policy associate to support this work.

Gas plant ruling.  Administrative Law Judge finds that Minnesota Power failed to show that their proposed new natural gas would be in the public interest. Fresh Energy provided testimony that Minnesota Power did not need the new energy capacity, that it wouldn’t be in the customer interest, that efficiency and renewable energy alternatives would better serve customers and provided evidence that the approval of a new fossil fuel plant would make it difficult, if not impossible, for Minnesota to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Updated interconnection standards. The Public Utilities Commission unanimously approves the process portion of the new interconnection standard and transition plan, marking the first major milestone of the effort. Connecting solar and other clean energy to the electric grid has been overly complicated, but with leadership from Fresh Energy and its partners, the process is becoming simpler and more transparent.

Xcel’s time-of-use pilot. The Public Utilities Commission approves Xcel Energy’s new time-of-use-pilot, making it possible for customers to save money by using electricity at different times of day. Fresh Energy developed an extensive record showing the value of time-of-use rates and provided expert input throughout the proceeding and in numerous stakeholder meetings.

Electric vehicle off-peak charging. The Public Utilities Commission unanimously approves Xcel Energy’s pilot program that will charge electric vehicle owners less for fueling their cars overnight. Fresh Energy was integral in the development of the pilot and urging the Commission to require the state’s other investor-owned utilities to offer similar programs.

VW settlement. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency plan devotes 15 percent to installing public chargers and 15 percent for heavy-duty electric vehicles (e.g. electric transit buses). The funding will facilitate the build-out of a web of rapid electric vehicle chargers across the state. Throughout the process, Fresh Energy was a strong champion for electric vehicles and chargers, participating in technical stakeholder meetings and providing public comments.

Low-income solar project. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approves a pilot program developed by Xcel Energy and Energy CENTS Coalition to provide solar and energy efficiency to low-income customers. Fresh Energy pushed for the pilot to be part of a larger strategy to serve low-income customers.

Energy News Network expanding. Southwest and Northeast Energy News launches as well as the Energy News Network website.

2017

Celebrating 25 years. Fresh Energy commemorates the anniversary of its founding by highlighting the organization’s people, partners, past accomplishments, and vital opportunities for future progress.

Solar is booming. Minnesota’s solar market is poised to complete a ten-fold increase from less than 50 megawatts at the beginning of 2016 to a projected 500 megawatts by the end of 2017.

Real cost of coal confirmed. After years of work with our partners, Fresh Energy and Minnesota’s health secure a victory when the Public Utilities Commission updates a planning cost for coal that takes into account the social and environmental impacts. 

Coal plants closing. Eight major coal plants, including the state’s oldest and most polluting plant, are now slated for retirement.

Global Climate Summit. Fresh Energy is called upon to share Minnesota progress at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, leading a panel of state government and corporate officials in the only state-  specific presentation included in this important international climate event.

2016

Bees love solar. Minnesota sets standards for bird and pollinator-friendly solar, with more than 2,300 acres planted (equivalent to more than 1.4 million six foot by 12 foot backyard pollinator gardens).

MNCharging.org. Electric car owners have a new go-to source to learn how to charge their vehicle, including all-renewable options.

Supporting wind. Minnesota law removes red tape for repowering wind turbine sites.

Improved industrial options. State law is clarified to allow combined heat and power systems that reduce emissions.

Expanded energy news. Fresh Energy launches original reporting in southeast states, providing new independent journalism on the transition to clean energy and building on the success of Midwest Energy News.

2015

From coal to clean energy. Xcel Energy, after considering data from and working with Fresh Energy and its partners, announces planned closing of Sherco units 1 and 2.

Minnesota in Paris. Fresh Energy brings Midwest and Minnesota-based insights to United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Committed to efficiency. Minnesota avoids fixed charge increases on utility bills, based on pure economics to maintain affordable energy that inspires efficiency.

2014

Renewable energy powered cars. Minnesota announces nation’s first statewide discounted overnight recharging rate for electric vehicles and an option for all-renewable energy.

More efficient buildings. Implementation begins on the new residential building code requiring 20 percent greater efficiency than current statewide code.

2013

Spurring solar. A new standard requires all public utilities to generate at least 1.5 percent of their electricity from solar energy resources by the year 2020.

Community solar. New law creates an opportunity for community members to jointly develop solar projects and receive credit on their utility bills for their share of the solar power produced.

Net metering. A new law expands the size of projects that qualify for net metering—a bedrock clean energy policy that allows utility customers with small onsite renewable energy systems to spin their meter backwards and save on their utility bills—to 1,000 kilowatts.

True value of solar.  Process begins to set a new “value of solar” rate  to compensate solar project owners for the true value of the electricity they produce.

Value of efficiency affirmed. Legislators pass a policy that states cost-effective energy savings is an energy resource preferable to all other resources.

Greening the MLS. Minnesota becomes one of the first states in the Midwest to help homebuyers find a green-certified or energy-efficient home.

For a full list of highlights, please contact info@fresh-energy.org.