Renewable energy for the Northside

Kristel Porter

This article was written by Kristel Porter

You have probably heard of a new organization that is starting to gain attention by engaging the North Minneapolis Community about Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. Founded by Kristel Porter, MN Renewable Now (MRN) was an idea that was conceptualized for over 12 years and finally became a reality on January 1, 2019. MRN partnered with Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) and Home Energy Squad (HES) in spring 2019 to spearhead the Power North project.

Power North was funded by the Minneapolis Foundation and McKnight Foundation. Further partners to help outreach were place-based organizations such as Northside Residents Redevelopment Council, McKinley Neighborhood Association, Hawthorne Neighborhood Association and Folwell Neighborhood Association.

The Power North project directed two time-bound campaigns that empowered Northern Green Zone residents and businesses to choose clean electricity and reduce energy consumption. The Renewable Energy campaign kicked off in September 2019 and focused on spurring businesses and residents to take advantage of solar and wind opportunities. Noting that keeping energy use low is just as important as having clean energy, the second campaign in February 2020 focused on updating the Northside housing stock and making homes more energy efficient.

Data from the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership reports that renewable energy program participation and home energy investments in the Northern Green Zone lag behind other parts of the City. With culturally-relevant messaging, and credible messengers to greater participation in North Minneapolis to date, Power North built trust through outreach conducted by members from the community. Further, the specific and focused campaigns served as a pilot for Community Based Social Marketing techniques to build a culture around sustainable energy in a community that has historically been under-resourced, yet has a vast interest in being more ‘green.’ With MRN’s engagement team, and strong existing community ties and the expertise to foster greater relationships through racially and culturally sensitive messaging, MRN was able to convince residents and businesses to take clean energy actions. Due to Power North, the result of greenhouse gas emission reductions, decreases in energy burden, and the activation of a community clean energy ethos was very significant.

Green Zones have a high density of people of color (up to over 92 percent in some neighborhoods) and share a low Area Median Income (AMI); it is critical to us that this program help to build their wealth. As neighbors have the opportunity to make investments in renewable energy, they can save money in the long term. So far the Power North Project was able to transition 83 households onto wind power, connect 11 households with community solar projects and get free Energy Efficiency Audits and Installations for over 50 households in North Minneapolis! There are still opportunities for households that would like to connect with a Community Solar Project.

MRN currently has up to 40 slots available on a Community Solar project that requires households who are at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income or receive some sort of government assistance. If it fills up? No problem, MRN has two additional Community Solar

Gardens for you to sign up for by the end of 2021! The best part of all? No down payment, no credit check and you will receive $100 sign on bonus credit to your energy bill!

MRN will be hosting the first ever Renewable Energy + Conservation Fair in North Minneapolis which is scheduled for May 30 at North Community High School. Sponsors include IPS Solar, US Solar, Xcel Energy, NRC and Ballard Power. Ballard happens to be a hydrogen fuel cell company coming from Canada. They will be bringing a hydrogen powered bus and will be giving a lecture on hydrogen fuel and how it is the renewable answer for larger commercial transportation vehicles.

MRN will also host a Renewable Now Leadership Conference for two days in October 2020 at the University Outreach and Engagement Center that will teach youth how renewable energy works, why we need it, and how to advocate for it with their legislatures.

For more info on getting free lightbulbs and energy efficient updates, to sign up for renewable energy, or to support MRN’s efforts contact mnrenewablenow.org or 612-208-3896.