Co-ops, stakeholders join forces to electrify Minnesota

It was standing room only in a conference room at Great River Energy’s Maple Grove office as nearly 100 people representing electric cooperatives, environmental advocacy groups as well as vendors turned out to learn more about a topic they all have a vested interest in: beneficial electrification.

The team behind this effort at Great River Energy hosted the Electrify Minnesota event as a way to spread the message to national and state-wide stakeholders and thought leaders.

Ellen Anderson, executive director of the University of Minnesota's Energy Transition Lab, speaks to attendees of the Electrify Minnesota event.

Ellen Anderson of the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance speaks to attendees of the Electrify Minnesota event.

The event was sponsored by the Beneficial Electrification League – chaired by Gary Connett, who was formerly Great River Energy’s director of member services and marketing – and supported by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Minnesota Rural Electric Association and Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation.

Beneficial electrification is the application of electricity to end-uses that would otherwise consume fossil fuels (think electric vs. gas vehicles) and satisfies at least one of the following without adversely affecting the others:

  • Saves consumers money over the long term
  • Benefits the environment
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
  • Improves the overall efficiency of the grid

Groups attending the event contend that electrifying parts of the economy is necessary to achieve carbon emissions reduction goals worldwide. This is possible due to declining emissions from electricity generation as utilities, including Great River Energy, continue to become more efficient and incorporate more renewable sources of energy into their power supply portfolios.

“Beneficial electrification is a new approach that looks at energy consumption from an economy, environmental and electric grid optimization perspective,” Connett said. “Low-cost renewable energy continues to grow … reducing the carbon intensity of electricity, which makes it the preferred energy choice for many end-use applications. It’s the dawn of a new era.”

The meeting fostered conversation from panel participants such as Connexus Energy CEO Greg Ridderbusch, Michael Noble of Fresh Energy and Ellen Anderson of the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance about electrification opportunities in Minnesota. Another panel discussion focused on the variety of residential, commercial and industrial beneficial electrification technologies that can meet the needs of consumers and utilities.

“Beneficial electrification can provide a number of benefits to our members and the state of Minnesota, and this event brought many thought leaders together to discuss how it can be effectively integrated into our state energy policies,” said Jeff Haase, leader, member technology and innovation.