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Partnerships to promote energy justice

It’s no secret that energy plays a significant role in the everyday lives of Minnesotans. Today, we rely on energy more than ever. Energy gives us the ability to work, learn, cook, stay warm, stay cool, and carry out countless other essential activities. While we all need and use energy, its impact on the lives of Minnesota residents differs considerably from household to household. Geography, race, income, and housing quality all affect how Minnesotans experience energy and the difference is clear when we look at the average energy burden. The average energy burden, or the percent of household income that is spent on non-transportation energy use, carried by Minnesota households below the federal poverty level is 16%, eight times the average. Despite paying significantly more of their income towards energy, these households more frequently experience unreliable electricity and gas service and often have to choose between affording electricity and other basic necessities.

In order to address these current injustices, the Institute on the Environment and the Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach Center (UROC) are hosting the third event in Minnesota’s Clean Energy Future series, Energy & Equity in the Twin Cities Workshop. 

The workshop aims to build a shared understanding of energy justice and the actions needed for the long-term empowerment of all communities. The workshop is designed to foster dialogue, collaboration, and form new partnerships that drive solutions promoting energy justice in the Twin Cities. 

“We want neighborhood organizations, organizers, energy assistance stakeholders, housing groups plus energy nonprofits and academia to develop a shared understanding of energy justice and what we can do to advance solutions.  This is important because it isn’t an ‘expert’ run workshop–we want to hear from all participants,” says Heidi Ries, workshop co-organizer and IonE Policy Analyst.

The workshop begins this October where 50-some participants will be a part of a virtual convening spread out over four sessions for five weeks. In an effort to advance the conversation and build bridges between the fields in clean energy policymaking and frontline community advocacy, a nontraditional approach to choosing participants was used.

Gabe Chan, workshop chair and associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs echoes the emphasis on inclusion, “Energy work too often privileges a certain kind of knowledge, which is often technical and exclusionary. We can’t afford to keep energy decisions only in the hands of those who have had the opportunity to develop deep engineering and economic ‘expertise.’ We want to use the space in the workshop to find common goals and new partnerships to cross the divides that stand in the way of the goals of energy justice.”

This third installment in Minnesota’s Clean Energy Future Series follows an Agricultural Climate Solutions Workshop that took place in fall 2020 and a bipartisan forum, Pathways to Minnesota’s Clean Energy Future: Case Studies from Global to Local, that took place in spring 2019. All three events work towards achieving IonE’s Impact Goals that aim to inspire collective community action. 

The Energy & Equity in the Twin Cities Workshop is supported by Xcel Energy and the McKnight Foundation. Grace Abifarin is a student communications assistant at the Institute on the Environment.

Grace Abifarin is a senior majoring in Marketing and Supply Chain and Operations Management and minoring in Leadership at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.


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