HomeLeading SustainabilityBridging the divide: the Clean Energy Future series

Bridging the divide: the Clean Energy Future series

Energy transition, climate change, carbon neutrality. They’ve become politically charged words, but they haven’t always been — and they don’t always have to be.

Seventy-four percent of Americans are concerned at least “some” and up to “a great deal” about the issue of global climate change and that’s a figure from 2016, prior to last year’s Fourth National Climate Assessment, which ushered in a new wave of awareness and urgency. But even growing agreement about the challenges ahead doesn’t erase the partisan divide that makes constructive collaboration seem so daunting.

In a series of three events beginning on June 14, 2019, the Institute on the Environment and its partners plan to bridge this divide. The Minnesota’s Clean Energy Future series will convene national and international policymakers, scholars, government officials, and corporate and nonprofit decision-makers for constructive, cross-sector and bipartisan discussions of key issues facing Minnesota’s energy future. These forums will explore topics including electrification, carbon pricing, nuclear power, energy storage, and alternative fuels, as well as other opportunities to advance Minnesota toward a clean-energy economy.

We know that if we can’t get bipartisan conversations around a topic, it’s going to be really hard to make any progress,” says Ellen Anderson, director of IonE’s Energy Transition Lab. Anderson served in the Minnesota Senate from 1993 to 2011.

“We’re hoping that by doing this series of events, we will encourage legislators to step outside the political environment at the Capitol, learn together, and talk to each other about some ideas that maybe they don’t really have an opportunity to [talk about] during the course of a regular legislative session.”

The June 2019 event, Pathways to a Clean Energy Future: Case Studies from Global to Local, will focus on collaborative learning and draw key players from across the state, country, and globe. Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke will deliver the opening keynote, and experts from Denmark, Germany, and the United Kingdom, as well as five U.S. states, will share their insights – among a host of other programming.

As a land-grant university in a state that does not produce coal, natural gas, or oil, the University of Minnesota is well-positioned to convene experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders who will lead the state toward a clean energy future, says IonE’s Director of International Partnerships Sabine Engel. Engel leads the Institute’s Climate Smart Municipalities project, as well as its Berlin Energy Policy Seminar. In turn, she believes, Minnesota has an opportunity to lead the country.

I believe leadership and collaborative solutions are part of Minnesota’s DNA,” Engel says. “Having the opportunity to learn firsthand about what’s being tried and is working elsewhere in the USA and in comparable highly industrialized countries, such as Germany and Great Britain, will be invaluable.”

Registration is now open for the June 14 event. A Statewide Carbon Pricing Forum will follow in January 2020, and the series will conclude with Pathways to a Clean Energy Future: Minnesota’s Choices in June 2020.


Xcel Energy is a generous sponsor of the Minnesota’s Clean Energy Future series. Uponor and Tennant are supporters of the June 2019 Pathways to a Clean Energy Future event. Grace Becker is the Communications Associate at the Institute on the Environment and an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, where she studies strategic communication, sustainability studies, and Spanish. 

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