Helping Minnesota communities determine their clean energy future
The Clean Energy Resource Teams—or CERTs—are a statewide partnership with a shared mission to connect individuals and their communities to the resources they need to identify and implement community-based clean energy projects.
We empower communities and their members to adopt energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy technologies and practices for their homes, businesses, and local institutions.
You can click here to see how CERTs is officially defined in Minnesota Statute 216C.385, 2012.
What does CERTs do?
- Works to advance projects identified as priorities by our regional teams
- Offers tools for energy efficiency implementation through campaigns
- Helps people learn about and implement solar, wind, and biomass projects
- Shares successes and lessons learned on our MN Energy Stories Blog
- Connects individuals and organizations to clean energy financing tools and incentives
- Provides limited financial assistance to projects through Seed Grants
- Supports local government clean energy work through the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program and beyond
How We Work:
Our approach is one of pragmatism and cooperation. We work via seven regional teams that span Minnesota. These teams are made up of a diverse mix of people: individuals, small business owners, farmers, local utility representatives, members of environmental groups, educators, and local government representatives.
Each team is guided by a local Steering Committee that sets regional priorities, identifies emerging energy issues and opportunities, and directs grant funding.
- Helped Minnesotans save over 109 billion BTUs of energy and avoid $1.7 million in energy costs since 2010
- Awarded $930,000 in seed grants to 230 energy projects since 2006
- Impacted over 120,000 people through grants, events, and programs since 2009
Learn more about our outcomes in this report >>
January 2012 through June 2013
The Clean Energy Resource Teams project is a public-private partnership consisting of:
- Community Members: local residents in all CERT regions
- University: University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension
- Nonprofit: The Great Plains Institute
- Government: Southwest Regional Development Commission and Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources
How is CERTs Funded?
- CIP Research and Development Fund, via Minnesota Department of Commerce
- U.S. Department of Energy, via Midwest Renewable Energy Association
- McKnight Foundation, Carolyn, and Wells Fargo Foundations
- University of Minnesota Extension
- USDA Rural Development EA-REDA
- Southwest Initiative Foundation
- USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
- Minnesota Solar Challenge, via U.S. Department of Energy & Minnesota Department of Commerce
- Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund
- Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund
- American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, via U.S. Department of Energy & Minnesota Department of Commerce
- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
- Bush Foundation
- Carolyn Foundation
- Blandin Foundation
- University of Minnesota Institute for Renewable Energy and the Environment
- University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships
Since its inception CERTs has created networks, provided education and helped catalyze projects. Here are some of the milestones met by the CERTs project:
- In 2005, Regional Strategic Clean Energy Plans were created in the six rural CERT regions.
- In 2006, 17 new clean energy projects were catalyzed with seed grants of $1,000 or less, leveraging additional community funding and helping to create tomorrow’s energy system in communities today.
- CERTs won the 2006 Minnesota Environmental Initiative’s Partnership of the Year award for the diverse collection of stakeholders it’s mobilized.
- In 2007, CERTs was written into state statute. CERTs awarded a total of $300,000 in seed grants for clean energy projects throughout the six greater Minnesota regions during 2008 and 2009. The legislature also provided for the expansion of CERTs to the Twin Cities metro area.
- Over 7,000 individuals participate in CERT meetings and educational forums, and volunteer thousands of hours to the CERTs project.
- According to a 2007 survey, 95 percent of active CERTs members believe that the program has been a success in the state of Minnesota.
- On May 7, 2009 Governor Pawlenty signed the Environment Budget bill, which included $1.25 million over the biennium for CERTs to help local groups develop project ideas, find technical and financial resources, and organize and implement projects in their communities.
- In 2009, CERTs received $450,000 over two years from the Bush Foundation to help Minnesota communities save 30.7 billion BTUs each year.
- In January 2010, CERTs announced funding for $280,000 in seed grants to all seven regions in Minnesota.
- From 2009-2011, CERTs has helped Minnesotans save over 35 billion BTUs of energy—enough to heat 400 Minnesota homes for a year—and CERT seed grants have supported over 180 new and existing employment opportunities.
How do the Clean Energy Resource Teams Operate?
Each CERT Region has created their own Operating procedures, but they all have some common elements. Each region’s operating procedures are available from their regional page. Example of operating procedures.
- Purpose-driven: To connect citizens with the technical resources they need to identify and implement community-scale energy efficiency and clean energy projects, in cooperation with CERTs Partners.
- Structure: Comprised of a Steering Committee; Officers and Advisory Boards; Staff; Base operation funding provided by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
- Meetings: Teams meet quarterly, Steering Committees more often.
- Funding for Projects Review: The Steering Committees will assist in the review of project proposals for regional seed grant funding for clean energy projects.
Phase I (2003-2005)
- Convening meeting, conferences and tours: forums for mutual learning, engaging multiple stakeholders groups
- Gathering data: Where do we stand and what are our best options?
- Developing missions: Where do we want to be?
- Prioritizing projects: How do we create change?
- Writing Strategic Energy Plans: Giving the region a starting point & outlining a path forward.
Phase II (2005-2007)
- Disseminating information from the strategic energy plans
- Conducting education and outreach on conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy and how people can make a difference in their own communities
- Stimulating project development
- Serving as a community resource to connect projects with technical resources
Phase III (2007-beyond)
- Stimulate and catalyze project development by:
- Serving as a community networking hub
- Offering informational and educational forums
- Providing seed grant funding ($300,000 2008-2009)
Reports & Papers
Angela High-Pippert and Steven M. Hoffman with the University of St. Thomas’s Department of Political Science have conducted third-party evaluations over the years of CERTs and our participants. You can see each of these below.
- Report on the Clean Energy Resource Teams Project: Phase One – Analysis of Online Survey of CERTs Participants by Angela High-Pippert and Steven M. Hoffman, University of St. Thomas Department of Political Science – July 3, 2007
- Report on the Clean Energy Resource Teams Project: Phase Two – Analysis of Focus Groups by Angela High-Pippert and Steven M. Hoffman, University of St. Thomas Department of Political Science – March 19, 2008
- ‘It Takes Money to Buy Whiskey’: Local Energy Systems and Civic Participation by Angela High-Pippert and Steven M. Hoffman, University of St. Thomas Department of Political Science – prepared for 2008 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, April 3-6, 2008
- Public Values and Community Energy: Lessons from the US and UK by Steven M. Hoffman, Shane Fudge, Lissa Pawlisch, Angela High-Pippert, Michael Peters, and Joel Haskard – This paper examines some of the normative aspects of community energy programs, defined as decentralized forms of energy production and distributed energy technologies where production decisions are made as close as possible to sources of consumption. Published in Sustainability, 2013.