An increasing number of communities in Minnesota are developing clean energy, climate, and resilience goals and launching projects to meet them. These projects include public building energy efficiency, new and more efficient street lighting, solar projects, PACE financing, and many other community-wide initiatives.
As with any other good decision-making, setting goals and meeting them requires before and after data to evaluate projects and decide on future investments. Communities need consistent and accurate community-scale energy data over time, but this can be challenging to come by.
Minnesota has close to 200 electric and natural gas utilities and they have different policies, practices, and timelines for sharing community-level data based on their data privacy policies, the capabilities of their billing systems, their capacity, and other concerns.
At the same time, utilities are increasingly inundated with data requests from communities, researchers, and other groups – often asking for different data formats covering different geospatial parameters.
The Minnesota Utility Energy Registry is a new GPI project designed to address both of these challenges. It will be a voluntary online platform to provide public access to community-scale utility energy demographic data. The purpose is both to provide communities with the consistent, up-to-date energy data necessary to inform clean energy, climate, and resilience planning, implementation, and assessment of project initiatives – and to streamline the process of responding to data requests for utilities.
The first Utility Energy Registry started in the State of New York as part of efforts to engage their investor-owned utilities in designing and launching a web database prototype to facilitate the transfer of energy data from utilities to municipalities, state energy offices, and other interested parties.
Minnesota has joined with New York, Maryland, and the District of Columbia to develop the next iteration of the Utility Energy Registry in each state, with the ultimate goal of a national community-level energy registry. The vision is to standardize energy data reporting and define metrics to ensure that community energy demographic data is comparable across the U.S.
This year-long project is led by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) State Energy Program (SEP) through their 2016 Competitive Funding Opportunity Announcement. The Great Plains Institute is the Minnesota project lead, with support from LHB and the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The project builds on scoping work completed in January 2017 through a Serendipity Grant provided by the University of Minnesota Office of the Vice President for Research.
A Minnesota state working group made up of utilities, community leaders, and other interested parties will guide the project, and the four-state initiative is led by a national working group of representatives from the four states.
You can also learn more about the project by checking out the slides (here), or the video recording below, from the January 26 webinar to introduce the project.
By Lola Schoenrich, vice president, Great Plains Institute