Chris meyer a deeper look into winona’s energy action plan columns gas welder job description


Winona’s newly adopted Energy Action Plan sets a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, and as a first step, plans to reduce energy use 10 percent over a 2016 baseline by 2025. These goals are not just for our municipal government which consumes only 1 to 2 percent of Winona’s energy but for the whole community. Winona’s Energy Action Team, made up of representatives from business, institutions and citizens of Winona, spent several months this year laying out the plan and how it will be implemented. In collaboration with Xcel Energy’s Partners in Energy, this group has mapped a set of steps that will more than achieve the 2025 target, based on energy modeling.

So where is electricity and natural gas being used today? Though the majority of premises in the city are residential, most electricity and natural gas are consumed by commercial and industrial energy users. As a result, while residents can have a large and important impact by reducing energy use at home, the action plan also calls for engaging Winona’s businesses and institutions. In fact, three of the four major focus areas of the Energy Action Plan are targeted towards the broad spectrum of Winona commercial and industrial businesses, and institutions including schools, universities, places of worship, and health care facilities.

What about energy efficiency? Nationally energy efficiency is now the third-largest and least expensive source of electricity, having helped avoid the building of over 300 new power plants since 1990. Xcel Energy, in response to Minnesota’s legislatively mandated Conservation Improvement Program, offers a wide variety of energy efficiency programs and incentives. Over the past three years about 17 percent of residential premises and 23 percent of commercial and industrial premises have participated in these programs, reducing Winona’s overall energy use by an average of 1.5 percent annually. In 2016 these customers saved over a half-million dollars as a result. Winona’s action plan leans heavily on energy efficiency with goals of doubling residential participation in current energy conservation programs, engaging 90 percent of large commercial and industrial customers in at least one conservation program, doubling small/medium businesses’ conservation, and reducing institutional energy use by 15 percent.

What about renewable energy? Fifteen percent of Minnesota’s total energy in 2016 came from renewables, which is ahead of the national average of 10 percent. Much of Minnesota’s progress has been made in the electricity sector where a full 22 percent of electricity consumed is generated by renewables. Locally, Winona County, Winona Area Public Schools, and St. Mary’s University have all subscribed to cover 100 percent of their electricity use with community solar, and the city has subscribed to cover 40 percent of their electricity use. The action team counted approximately 20 roof-top solar installations in the city, and Xcel Energy confirmed that 362 residential customers and 2 businesses are subscribing to its Windsource® program. Here the Energy Action Plan aims to double residential subscriptions to renewable energy programs, spur institutions to source at least 10 percent of their electricity consumption from renewables, and find three large business customers to add on-site renewable energy generation by 2020.