Passing the clean energy baton: MESA joins the Clean Grid Alliance
It’s akin to a moment every parent faces, says Energy Transition Lab Project Manager Barb Jacobs: letting go of a program or initiative, incubated and fostered inside of academia, to make its own impact in the world. It can be hard to let go, but with the right foundation and the right partners, it’s a transition that unleashes tremendous potential. And that’s why, earlier this fall, ETL announced that the three-year-old Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance has become an official program of the Clean Grid Alliance.
Led by Ellen Anderson, the Energy Transition Lab hosted the state’s first energy storage summit in 2015. ETL then convened interested stakeholders to found the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance (MESA) with support from the McKnight Foundation. From the beginning, MESA had connection at its core. The Alliance, a forum of Minnesota energy stakeholders with a commitment to energy storage, seeks to connect industry professionals, researchers, and regulators, and to advance smart policies to support the storage of clean energy in Minnesota.
Original members included interested volunteer stakeholders, many of whom had attended the ETL-organized Energy Storage Summit, and who believed in Minnesota’s ability to be a strong market for energy storage.
“[MESA] was the first of its kind,” says Jacobs. “There hadn’t been any really large-scale discussions about energy storage in Minnesota, at least in policy spaces, up until that point.”
As MESA has grown since 2015, the alliance has hosted annual Energy Storage Summits, offered insight to Minnesota policymakers, and commented on energy storage-related activities at the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. MESA’s current broad, interdisciplinary energy stakeholders and experts include representatives from Fresh Energy, IPS Solar, Xcel Energy, the MN Department of Commerce, the Great Plains Institute, and the MN Solar Energy Industry Association (MNSEIA), among others.
In light of MESA’s successes and with an eye towards its continued growth, Anderson and Jacobs determined with the support of MESA members that for the program to truly thrive, it was time for it to leave the cradle of academia. Fall of 2018 seemed an appropriate time. “We agreed that for MESA to grow and prosper as a strong organization and voice for energy storage development, it was time to take MESA to a more permanent and appropriate home outside the University,” says ETL Director Ellen Anderson.
Clean Grid Alliance, formerly known as Wind on the Wires, was the ideal fit. A membership organization known as a trustworthy source of bipartisan information for Minnesota policy leaders and changemakers, Clean Grid Alliance was a founding member of MESA. “With the Clean Grid Alliance’s great track record of engaging its membership in meaningful and impactful ways, MESA will be able to formalize its structure, grow its membership and capacity, and provide more opportunities for member action and involvement,” saysAnderson.
The Clean Grid Alliance is committed to furthering not only wind energy, but also solar, energy transition, and energy storage. MESA will fit intrinsically in this framework. “We look forward to taking on the energy storage work, which will be a part of a transition to a clean energy economy and integral to our goal of delivering Midwest renewable energy,” says Beth Soholt, Executive Director of the new Clean Grid Alliance.
The Energy Transition Lab will continue to be involved. “The success of MESA was all about these relationships that we have and that we’ve built over the past few years,” said Anderson. “Those relationships will continue.”
Grace Becker is the Communications Assistant at IonE and an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, where she studies strategic communication, sustainability, and Spanish.