The Energy Future I See

Ecolution reporting made possible by Seward Co-op, which has been a community-owned grocer since 1972: Together, we continue to cultivate a cooperative economy.

Margaret Cherne-Hendrick joined Fresh Energy in 2018. She previously worked as a senior policy associate at the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Boston University. She holds a doctorate in Geography from Boston University, a master’s degree in Organismal Biology and Ecology from the University of Montana, and a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Reed College.

Minnesota has made great progress in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector, but we have fallen behind in making similar progress in other critical sectors, like transportation and buildings. There is now movement toward decarbonization of transportation systems through electrification, but across the nation carbon pollution from buildings now accounts for a staggering 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has indicated that the fastest rising sources of emissions in the state are from residential and commercial buildings.

As of 2005, emissions have risen 32 percent from residential and 15 percent from commercial buildings.

Only about one-fifth of Minnesotans heat their homes with electricity today. In order to move our homes and buildings off fossil fuels and onto clean electricity, we need an energy transition that is equitable, one that secures the jobs of the future, and one that will achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. 

At Fresh Energy, we have crafted an electrification public policy framework. To be considered beneficial, building electrification must:prioritize investment and activity in low-income and under-resourced communities, maintain or improve the quality of electricity service, maximize customer savings, improve the integration of renewable and carbon-free resources, and prioritize job creation.

In Minnesota we are already making progress with the building of innovative passive and geothermal projects. Exploration of advancing carbon-free multifamily affordable housing is underway.

Fresh Energy has launched the Midwest Building Decarbonization Coalition to achieve zero emissions from the building sector by 2050. [The Midwest BDC plays a leadership role in convening and leveraging numerous organizations, stakeholders, and allies to develop and implement a plan for coordinated progress in the eight-state region.] 

As Minnesota utilities make bold commitments to decarbonize our electric supply, now is the time to convert buildings from fossil fuel power to clean electricity. Electric appliances like heat pumps and induction stoves are extremely energy efficient, safe, healthy, and capable of functioning in cold climates. Building sector electrification is an important tool — not only for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency, and lowering energy burden — but also for improving indoor air quality and public safety overall.