Last month, a comprehensive energy plan was approved by both the Grand Marais City Council and the Cook County Board of Commissioners. According to George Wilkes of the Cook County Local Energy Project (C-CLEP), the energy plan “is a framework for collaborative work on energy issues.”
There's a public meeting about the plan scheduled for Thursday, August 23, from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. at the Cook County Community Center in Grand Marais. WTIP's Ann Possis spoke with CCLEP coordinator Virginia Danfelt about the meeting, the plan, and the importance of addressing energy issues in our community, as a community. Click on audio mp3 above to hear the interview.
Cook County and Grand Marais Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Plan
In the summer of 2010, the Cook County Board, the City of Grand Marais, and the CookCounty Local Energy Project (CCLEP) formed a partnership to develop a voluntary Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Plan (Energy Plan) pertaining to both the City and the County. The purpose of this project is to better prepare our community for the challenges,and opportunities, of a rapidly changing energy environment. More specifically, implementation of this Energy Plan should benefit our community by:
• Retaining energy dollars in our local economy.
• Creating jobs.
• Improving quality of life for Cook County citizens through more comfortable, less costly,energy efficient housing.
• Buffering our community from the effects of unstable energy supply and pricing.
• Decreasing our community’s contribution to the harmful environmental and climatic effects of fossil fuel use.
• Decreasing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
• Increasing social equity and social justice by shifting wealth and power into the hands of local citizens and their local utilities.
The Vision driving development of the Energy Plan is to make Cook County and Grand Maraisa more energy conscious community and a leader in energy efficiency and renewable energy with both the County and City working continuously and methodically towards an ultimate goal of energy independence.
The Mission of the Energy Plan development process is to engage the community in an open, inclusive, and public process to create a living document to guide Cook County and the City of Grand Marais – their governments, businesses, and residents – to make educated decisions with regard to energy conservation and renewable energy projects.
PLAN DEVELOPMENT: Development of the Plan was overseen by an Energy Plan Committee whose members included a wide spectrum of Cook County and Grand Marais stakeholders. Grant dollars received from the Minnesota Office of Energy Security allowed inclusion of an Energy Consultant Team in the planning process. The Energy Plan Committee met frequently, once or twice per month, between December of 2010 and May of 2012 to develop the Plan. The critical result of this process, and the most useful part of this Plan, is a set of Goals, Strategies, and Action Steps designed to guide our community towards more sustainable energy production and usage.
Multiple processes were used to gather the information used to formulate the Plan. A Public Input Process was used both to gather public attitudes and conceptions, and to offer an avenue for public involvement. It was divided into three components in order to reach out to as many community members as possible: An online survey, a random telephone survey, and two “Energy Summits” held in May of 2011 – one in Tofte and one in Grand Marais.
The public input process revealed widespread concern by Cook County residents about energy issues especially energy costs and environmental impacts. A large majority of residents were in favor of increased energy efficiency and renewable energy development, and a similar majority was in favor of local governmental action to facilitate that development. Results also showed that economic considerations are a big driver in making energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.
Energy Profiles describing energy consumption by fuel source and usage sector were developed using data collected from Arrowhead Electric, Grand Marais PUC, local propane and fuel oil providers, and the U.S. census. The profiles indicate that the City and County use
approximately 603,000 MMBtu/yr at an annual cost of approximately $14,500,000. Energy use is fairly evenly split between the commercial and residential sectors. Plan implementation will be balanced to show equal efforts in both sectors.
An Energy Toolbox containing a variety of informational resources was developed to assist in the implementation of the Energy Plan. The resources were divided into the following categories:
• Technical, educational, and financial resources
• Potential implementation partners
• Local energy efficiency and renewable energy demonstration sites
• On‐going energy efficiency and renewable energy based projects
• Examples of energy use analyses/energy audits of residential, commercial and public
GOALS, STRATEGIES, AND ACTION STEPS: Information gleaned during the Plan development process was used to set forth a comprehensive, prioritized list of possible energy efficiency and renewable energy activities. These are organized into Goals, Strategies and Action Steps that provide our community with a framework for methodical, step‐by‐step progress toward more sustainable energy production and usage.
Goals, Strategies, and Action Steps are defined as follows:
• Goal – A broadly defined objective.
• Strategy – A plan or path toward achieving a set goal.
• Action Step – A specific step toward executing a set strategy.
The 10 goals of the Plan, in order of priority, are:
1. Demonstrate leadership and commitment to energy planning and development.
2. Increase public awareness and engagement regarding energy issues through education.
3. Optimize energy efficiency in the residential sector.
4. Optimize energy efficiency in the public and institutional sectors.
5. Optimize energy efficiency in the commercial sector.
6. Optimize clean, local, renewable energy development.
7. Promote land use practices that optimize energy efficiency.
8. Promote energy efficient transportation.
9. Promote an energy efficiency and renewable energy business sector.
10. Promote and enhance water conservation and waste reduction.
The principal mechanism for implementing the Energy Plan is for both the City and County to formally designate CCLEP as an advisory committee charged with Plan implementation. With representation from the City Council and the County Board, CCLEP will take the lead in implementing projects and programs, and recommending action to be taken by the City and/or County. All local governmental action and funding will require approval from the appropriate local governing body.
Of course, the true measure of success of this Plan will be the extent to which this voluntary Plan is accepted and incorporated into our community's culture. Hence, the Plan was designed with education as the primary force in making progress towards achieving our stated vision. Real, effective implementation of this Energy Plan will come through a prolonged and diligent process of community education.