• 24Jul

    Section 2 (of 3) of the comprehensive plan is now available. I spent a good portion of the weekend reading it. It appears outstanding. Section 3 is still a little rough. This is the first full update to the plan the guides community development since the mid to late 1970s. This plan appears to significantly improve the City of Rochester’s focus on the responsible use of financial resources.

    Comprehensive Plan Section 2

    I hope that section 3 will be coming shortly. It is imperative that the council adopt a strong plan, and stick to it.

    Expect that I will organize many community listening sections to discuss this topic.



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  • 07Mar

    Here is a podcast where I discuss clean energy, local economy, and the power of a publicly owned utility. The podcast is about 15 minutes if you would like a listen.

    Local Energy Rules Podcast

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  • 13Oct

    Answers coming soon.

    Affordable Housing:
    Considering the massive crisis that we face in the availability of affordable housing for households with income below $55,000 per year, what do you think is the responsibility of City government to help create affordable housing and what specific measures do you think the City could take now to facilitate the development of affordable housing?

    We recognize that you are running for City Council, not the School Board. However, given the importance of our children’s education, we are asking this question:
    What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Rochester related to the education of our youth, and what, in your role as a City Council member, are the factors you will consider to address this?

    Living Wage:
    Do you support tying a Living Wage to any business seeking public funding from the city?

    Historic Preservation:
    What do you think would be the appropriate response by the city council regarding the current situation with the Kutzky House?

    Social Services:
    How are you going to get input from the working poor of Rochester on an ongoing basis? Will you include housing, transportation and living wages in your conversations?

    “The workforce we want is attracted by sustainability. Our Mayor has made a proclamation that Rochester will be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2031. And the one formal city initiative on energy sustainability is our Climate Smart Municipalities partnership with German cities. What are three ways you would lead the city council to capitalize on our German partnership to create a more attractive and sustainable city?”

    Plans for the DMC and the City Comprehensive plan call for a significant shift away from people driving alone into Rochester for work and other trips. Much of the public investment in the DMC revolves around improvements to public transit, especially buses. Biking and pedestrian route upgrades are also included, and demand for them is growing. However, we’ve also seen a recent uptick in crashes involving people walking or biking. Recent figures show that 2016 is on par to be the deadliest year for pedestrians in Minnesota as a whole, and this is especially true in Rochester. Two of the seven bicycle related deaths were in Rochester. What are your priorities on making it easier for people to drive less so we can meet these goals and to do so safely?

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  • 13Sep

    Edit: Fixed Link

    This is certainly in my list of positions to support in 2017. Our EDF Fellow Matus Muron presents a tremendous case for funding an office of sustainability.

    EDF Fellow Report

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  • 14Jul

    The Rochester City Council will consider this piece of work on Monday. Thanks to all the people that poured a lot of energy and advocacy into this.

    Rochester Energy Action Plan

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  • 17Dec

    It would appear the answer is yes and it can be done pretty quickly.

    Here is a summary of the CEE report to DMC.

    Here is the full report.

    In short the proposal calls for the city, Mayo, RPU, & MERC to create an Energy Integration Committee to focus on:

    • Energy efficiency
    • District Energy
    • Renewable Energy
    • Culture of Sustainability

    We will see if the city and pursue this.

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  • 17Oct

    Edit: First suggestion to make the list is #12 by Ivan.

    Edit 2: Wow the readership and comments to me on this post have been off the charts, keep them coming.

    This is a little bit of a thinking out loud post for me, so I welcome your ideas.

    So Mayor Brede issued a proclamation moving us in that direction. This came as a total surprise to basically everyone that works on energy issues in the community. The proclamation did not receive input from the Energy Commission, RPU Board, or Public Works. As such we are trying to weigh what it would take to achieve this. 2031 is significant because we are out from the shadows of our horrible SMMPA deal in 2030. Ultimately for the city to achieve this we will need Mayor Brede to show leadership on issues like sprawl, and transit oriented development which he has yet to take any action on. In fact, since 1966 the city population has approximately doubled while our land area has grown from 11 sq. mi. to 55.

    First we must quantify what 100% renewable means. The assumption is that this would refer to all energy sources. This means that both transportation and heating will need to be converted to renewable sources. Also changes take time. It is now 2015, and in 2030 there will still be many of today’s vehicles on the road, the average age of a vehicle on the road today is 11 years old.  Since most cars sold are still based on the combustion engine there will be many out there in 2030. It is also unlikely that we will retrofit every existing furnace to a renewable energy source in the next 15 years. As such we must assume that the real goal is to produce a quantity of renewable of energy that meets & exceeds the quantity of energy we use as a community. There is an understanding that we will still be using some fossil fuel based energy, but would be transitioning out.

    Read more…

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  • 17Sep

    This is hands down the most important planning activity for the future of Rochester. The consultants leading the project described this as the best and most thorough planning effort they had ever been involved with. They expect that this will be an award winning project. Here is the update we received.

    P2S Update Document

    In general we are studying 3 scenarios:

    1. Continued suburban sprawl
    2. Significant infill along major corridors and nodes
    3. Major high density nodes south of downtown & near IBM.

    What is different about this study is that we are seriously looking at the consequences of our decision. Today a few council members simultaneously can’t fund the costs associated with sprawl and deny sprawl is a problem. In considering these scenarios we will also consider.

    1. Our ability to deliver services including transit
    2. Cost of land development in different areas
    3. Financial impacts on the budget, especially public infrastructure
    4. Impacts on energy and environment.

    My hope is that when present with the likely data, 4 council members will vote to end the sprawl.

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  • 30Jun

    Here is a Rochester Public Utilities #ActOnClimate

    I don’t often post on items that happen in my committee meetings, but I wanted to share something significant that occurred at the RPU meeting(s) today. RPU has 5 directors, 1 of which represents the City Council. As a lifelong energy nerd, that happens to be me.

    The meeting got off to a rocky start as we the RPU building was evacuated due to a chemical scent. After an hour of standing around outside, we moved the meetings to the Silver Lake Plant location.  Interestingly I was interested in stopping by the Sierra Club picnic at 6:30, but seeing as I was sitting on a board determining the future of power in Rochester, I figured that they would prefer me to be the RPU board meeting. Sorry Andrea…

    Today RPU updated its energy roadmap to show a much cleaner future:

    1. As a result of our SMMPA contract we are on the hook for coal power produced at Sherco 3 until 2030. After that we have no obligation to purchase power from SMMPA, and most likely will not.
    2. The latest roadmap for power production assets has RPU investing heavily in gas turbines and renewable energy over the next 20 years.
    3. In 2031, with the expiration of the SMMPA power purchase obligations, RPU will abandon all energy from coal.
    4. Over the next 20 years the current plan will see RPU add:
      1. 50 MW gas packing unit to replace an aged and less efficient unit (Cascade Creek 1)
      2. 30 MW combined heat / power gas unit
      3. 390 MW combined cycle gas turbine
      4. 18.5 MW of Solar PV
      5. 150 MW of Wind Power
    5. RPU will voluntarily meet all state environmental standards.
    6. Changes in storage technology, energy demand management, and gas prices could also combine to create an increased case for more renewables.
    7. RPU’s only exposure to coal would be on market contracts, but this plan does not require those contracts for now.
    8. Right now we only get 8% capacity credit for solar and 14% for wind, because those resources are not readily available at all times they are needed. However with some minor changes in policy we could significantly increase renewable capacity and shrink gas capacity.
    9. In general this plan will offer competitive energy rates, much cleaner energy, and more production dollars staying in SE Minnesota.
    10. 4 different scenarios were analyzed with all 4 basically coming to the same conclusions, but with slightly different timelines.


     photo IMG_5451_zps7gr3wekl.jpg

    Additionally the numbers for expected demand show that conservation in Rochester has greatly reduced the outlook for needed power into the future. Here you can hopefully see that the expected demand for power went down significantly between the 2012 forecast and the 2015 forecast.

     photo IMG_5448_zpscgvyf93e.jpg


    In other actions RPU is working to ensure that we have no unfunded liabilities in our water utility, much like we did in the electric utility last year. A decade of holding rate increases to 0% left us with some issues that now need to be addressed. Both before and after the changes RPU will have some of the lowest water rates in the country.


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  • 12Dec

    Here is a prelim look at energy options for the Recreation Center.  I raised a pretty big stink about this and am glad to see some work being done.  There are still some issues to resolve, especially discrepancies to state data and an evaluation of solar thermal.

    Prelim Energy Study

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