“Minnesota Energy Timeline,” was brought to us by Anna Jursik from the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE). The CEE organization provides cost effective programming for Minnesota homeowners, businesses, non-profit and government. Ms. Jursik currently works for the Center’s blog called the i.e. as program assistant. The article was published by Nancy Lange who has worked with clean energy solutions for the last twenty years. Nancy works as Manager of Policy and Engagement at CEE.
An elderly relative of mine tells the story of how electricity came to her parents’ farm in 1945. The rural electric cooperative in northwestern Minnesota was signing up farmers and stringing wires, but their family had a particularly long wait. A spiteful neighbor refused to give permission for the distribution lines to cross his property. By denying his neighbors the benefits of electricity, he exacted a painful retribution for previous disagreements. She distinctly remembers the day electricity finally arrived, and happily recounts the improvements it brought to their lives.
The Innovation Exchange is creating a Minnesota Energy Timeline. This timeline will be physically displayed in our Innovation Exchange conference room, and an expanded version will be available on our web site by August. It’s an interesting and relevant project for CEE for a number of reasons. Our office is located in the historic Colonial Warehouse building, near the foundations of Minneapolis’ energy infrastructure – the St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River. Dams on the Mississippi River, the Ottertail River, and the St. Louis River first provided hydromechanical power for saw mills, flour mills, and factories. Then hydroelectric projects were built at the sites of these dams and helped serve as a foundation for the creation of Minnesota electric utilities. The Minnesota Brush Electric Company built the first hydroelectric power station in the U.S. on the west bank of the Mississippi on a sawmill platform just below the St. Anthony falls. This power station supplied electricity to businesses along Washington Avenue, including our historic building which housed the Minneapolis streetcars.
But in addition to our physical location, CEE staff have also played a key role in Minnesota’s energy development. Our organization began as the Minneapolis Energy Office in 1979. This office was created in the Energy Crisis era, when conservation and energy efficiency initiatives were launched. At this time, Minnesota established requirements for electric and gas utilities to perform pilot conservation programs. CEE launched the House Doctor Program composed of diagnostics, outreach, and assistance for residential energy efficiency improvements. In the mid-1980’s, CEE initiated field tests of energy efficiency strategies for multifamily building mechanical systems, which became the template for multifamily efficiency programs throughout the country.
The timeline project also brings to light the myriad of actors that have shaped Minnesota’s energy path. As it did for those of us working on the project, we anticipate that this Energy Timeline will spur recollections of energy milestones in your personal and professional lives. For example, I began working in the energy field in 1994 when the MN Legislature was engaging in a protracted and contentious debate over expanded nuclear waste storage at the Prairie Island nuclear power plant – a key event that reshaped Minnesota energy policy. Remember the gas lines of the 1970’s? Or the installation of the Minnesota’s first wind turbines? What are some energy recollections and milestones that you believe belong in the Minnesota Energy Timeline project? Provide them here!
Photo credit: Dakota Electric Association, Minnesota Historical Society, CEE
© 2011 Center for Energy and Environment