Students Wrap Up a Semester of Clean Energy Organizing at the University of Minnesota

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by Mallory Carter, Campus Beyond Coal Student Organizing Fellow


Campus Beyond Coal leaders Rachel VanAllen, Erik Lundborg, and Long Le prepare to deliver over 400 individual comments to the Public Utilities Commission in May.

Students are calling for Xcel to retire the largest global warming polluter in Minnesota- Xcel’s Sherco coal power plant. On May 4th Campus Beyond Coal members from the University of Minnesota Erik Lundborg, Rachel VanAllen, Long Le, and Mallory Carter dropped off over 400 additional comments at the Public Utilities Commission office in downtown St. Paul. The drive from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities to the PUC office located in the heart of Minnesota’s capitol consisted of reminiscing the journey Campus Beyond Coal has had as a student organization this semester. We talked about the leadership transition that happened at the beginning of the semester, how it made us stronger as a group, and for myself at least, as an individual.

It has always been Campus Beyond Coal’s mission to impact where and how the University of Minnesota gets its energy. Since Xcel helps power the University of Minnesota, we are asking for Xcel to increase its commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency. Xcel’s position on the forefront of renewable energy and energy efficiency should be applauded. To maintain this position, we asked Xcel to commit in its Integrated Resource Plan to retiring Sherburne County (Sherco) Coal Generating Station. When Xcel looks to the future, we are asking it to build 5,000 MW of new wind generation, 1,000 MW of solar generation, and achieve a 2 percent annual energy efficiency standard.  It’s time for Xcel to move off of dirty coal completely by planning for clean energy solutions—the greener, healthier choice for our future. These standards were discussed at Making the Switch: A Discussion about Minnesota’s Clean Energy Future, where environmental and corporate panelists provoked a lively discussion about Minnesota’s energy future. This event gave attendants a chance to participate in the discussion about increasing renewable energy and the future of Xcel’s Sherco coal power plant. Panelists Dick Hemmingsen, Managing Director of the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment; Shane Stennes, Sustainability Services at University of Minnesota; Steve Kelley, Director of Center for Science, Technology, and Public Policy; J. Drake Hamilton, Fresh Energy’s Science Policy Director; and Rick Evans, Xcel Energy, answered challenging questions about Minnesota’s energy future from the audience.

With the help of the Sierra Club and hundreds of interested and supportive individuals who signed postcards this standard may become a reality.

The receptionist at the Public Utilities Commission looked slightly confused as the four of us handed over the folder containing a stack of papers. What she did not understand as we stood in front of her with smiling faces is what went into making those pieces of paper a possibility. Hours of standing in all sorts of weather conditions with a couple of clip-boards, a few gel pens, and a stack of postcards by members of Campus Beyond Coal went into making that folder a possibility. This was done by engaging the University of Minnesota community to make the choice to make the University a healthier, more sustainable place by moving beyond coal and towards renewable energy.

As the receptionist stamped our folder and told us she would file our comments we all looked at one another and slowly walked out of the office. All the work Campus Beyond Coaler’s and the support of the community expressed by signing a postcard had been handed over in a matter of minutes. It felt great to know that in somehow we had made an impact, whether it be on the smaller scale of engaging an individual to let them know their right to be heard in the energy policy-making process, or successfully achieving our goal of moving Xcel and the University of Minnesota beyond coal, we have made a difference.


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