Sparks ignited at Positively Electric event

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On Wednesday May 10, nearly 150 energy leaders and other concerned Minnesotans gathered at Positively Electric to explore a more electric future—hundreds more joined via Facebook live. The event was part of Fresh Energy’s popular Power Pairings series.

This electrifying conversation featured Joseph Stagner, who led Stanford University’s transition from fossil fuel to renewable electricity for campus heating, cooling, and transportation, and Will Kaul, a forty-year expert and leader on electric grid issues at Great River Energy. Together, we discussed what it will take to get Minnesota’s transportation and home and water heating off of gasoline, diesel, fuel oil, propane, and eventually natural gas, and gradually begin powering most of our economy with wind and solar-generated electricity.

Will Kaul emphasized the progress that’s been made here in Minnesota over the course of his career and all that is possible if electric utilities can grow and cut carbon. We’re in the midst of an energy transformation, he said and while we are currently “awash in generation,” new markets for electricity to replace other fuels would unleash major increases in renewables.

As he shared insights on Stanford’s transformation to all-electric power, Joseph Stagner emphasized that an investment in energy supply is a thirty-year commitment. Access to capital is key, he said, to support initial investment that will create a far less expensive system over the long term. In addition to costing less, Joseph emphasized that investing in electricity for a future power supply builds in flexibility. Innovation is allowing us to create electricity in new, cleaner ways, but if you invest in a natural gas plant, he said, “it will always be natural gas.”

For a full recording of the event, visit Fresh Energy’s Facebook page.

Before and after the event, participants had a chance to check out more than 25 electric cars, brought by local drivers who have already moved away from the gas pump to embrace clean electricity for transportation.

Public Utilities Commissioner Katie Sieben took a look at the new Chevy Bolt at Fresh Energy’s Positively Electric Power Pairing event.

Fresh Energy is celebrating our 25th anniversary this year. For most of our history, “use less electricity” has been a basic tenant of our work. But that has changed and moving to a more electric economy is a central focal point of Fresh Energy’s efforts. The fact is, Minnesota and the U.S. as a whole have become pretty good at generating clean electricity. At the same time oil and natural gas are getting dirtier and more environmentally costly. In 2016 for the first time, transportation eclipsed electricity generation as the top source of carbon pollution. It’s becoming increasingly clear that what we need to do is keep making our electricity cleaner and move more of our economy onto electricity—powering cars with electricity and using wind, solar, and other renewable electricity to replace propane and other high carbon fuels in home heating.

Fresh Energy’s work toward a more electric economy is designed to:

  • Continue to make Minnesota’s electricity mix cleaner with more wind and solar and less coal.
  • Increase the amount of our economy powered by electricity, particularly rural home heating and cars and buses.
  • Ensure a strong, resilient electric grid that allows all Minnesotans to use electricity when they need it while reducing waste in the energy system.

Thank you to all who made this event a success and stay tuned for updates on our progress toward a “positively electric economy.”

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