Best Practice

GreenStep City Best Practices Resilient Economic and Community Development
Renewable Energy {BP No. 26}

Remove barriers to and encourage installation of renewable energy generation capacity.

Best Practice Actions

a. A local/municipal utility's green power purchasing program that allows residents/businesses to order/buy new renewable energy.
b. Making residents/businesses aware of available community solar subscriptions.
c. Creating and sharing a map of the community’s solar resource and/or linking to the Minnesota Solar Suitability App.
d. Connecting residents/businesses with the Clean Energy Project Builder for potential installers.
a. PACE for commercial property owners to install renewable energy systems, energy efficiency measures and EV charging infrastructure.
b. Local, state and federal financial incentives for property owners to install renewable energy systems.
c. Local/municipal utility renewable energy production incentives and rebates.
a. Serving as a host site for a community solar garden.
b. Facilitating development, by the municipal utility or other entity, of a community solar garden that ensures accessibility and availability to low-income residents.
c. Report city government community solar garden subscriptions, green tag purchases and 3rd party solar purchases under action 15.2.
a. Fueled by flowing water, sun, wind, or biogas.
b. Fueled in part or whole by manure or woody biomass, optimized for minimal air and other environmental impacts and for energy efficiency and water conservation.
c. Distributing heating/cooling services in a district energy system.
d. Producing combined heat and power; using a microgrid.
e. Energy storage integrated into a renewable energy installation.

Optional for category A, B and C cities

Category C cities that choose to implement this best practice are recognized upon completion of at least one action.

Category A and B cities that choose to implement this best practice are recognized upon completion of at least two actions.


Minnesota is almost completely dependent on energy sources outside state borders. Annually we spend $18 billion (as of 2018) on coal, natural gas, uranium, petroleum, and electricity produced from a variety of these non-renewable (and a small proportion of renewable) sources. Adding renewable energy generation capacity that is owned by local government, residents, businesses and educational institutions:

  • Develops underused local energy resources, keeping dollars available for re-spending in the community.
  • Increases a community's resilience to energy supply and price shocks (and cuts peak energy use and resulting electric demand charges).
  • Cuts greenhouse gas emissions in support of the state's Next Generation Energy goals.
  • Decreases health care costs to individuals and the state due to displacing coal air emissions with clean energy.

Local renewable energy sources include power from wind, the sun, biomass feedstocks (wood, ag waste, waste water, municipal solid waste) and water. Think of these as "current income," different than using the "capital" supplies of non-renewable resources. Short of generating renewable energy locally, a city can include purchase of renewably generated power in its environmentally preferable purchasing policies.

Greenstep Advisor

Best Practice Advisor Photo
Lissa Pawlisch, Statewide Coordinator, Clean Energy Resource Teams: 612/624-2293,,

Connection to State Policy

  • Minnesota's Next Generation Act of 2007 sets the following statewide goals:
    1. cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 15% below 2005 levels by 2015, 30% by 2025, and 80% by 2050;
    2. cutting energy use post-2012 equal to 1.5% of annual retail sales of electricity and natural gas;
    3. cutting per capita fossil fuel use by 15% by 2015, through increased reliance on energy efficiency and renewable energy;
    4. deriving 25% of MN's electricity from renewable energy resources by 2025.
  • 2010 legislation creating a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program enables local governments to create voluntary programs that will allow property owners to finance solar, other renewable energy, energy efficiency, and electric vehicle plug-in improvements to their homes or businesses through voluntary property assessments.
  • Minnesota laws support distributed generation (DG), for which renewables are ideal. Minn. Stat. 216B.1611, 2426 require utilities to plan for and integrate DG resources into the utility system. Minn. Stat. 216B.2411 allows 10% of Conservation Improvement Program spending on DG.
  • The 2013 Minnesota Legislature enabled the creation of Community Solar Gardens: centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers. The Solar Sanctuaries Act of 2016 establishes voluntary native vegetation and habitat management practices in the footprint of solar installations, such as pollinator-friendly habitat.


Major Benefit

  • 56% of the energy generated in Minnesota is wasted (see Lawrence Livermore infographic for MN), mostly as unused heat from electricity generation and vehicles. This waste provides huge opportunities to cut waste and costs through reuse of waste heat (e.g., at power plants), increased efficiency in the use of energy (e.g., via electric vehicles), and in the generation of electricity renewably and much more efficiently from Minnesota's wind and solar resources, which, in the case of solar, should be looked at and calculated as proven solar reserves the way economists do for proven oil and gas reserves.
  • CERTS (Minnesota's Clean Energy Resource Teams) produce case studies that emphasize community benefits of increasing local renewably generated energy, which include financial and environmental benefits, along with benefits to public health and to a community's resiliance to energy price and supply shocks.
  • Public health and financial benefits accrue to the state when energy is generated by renewable sources, as opposed to generation from non-renewable sources such as coal, oil and natural gas. The financial, agricultural, energy, and key ecosystem benefits generated by pollinator-friendly plantings under solar panels installations have been modeled and are impressive.
  • See also several free EPA benefit tools (including COBRA, AVERT) that calculate the multiple financial, emissions, health benefits for cities that adopt energy efficiency and renewable energy policies and practices.
  • Installation of "behind the meter" renewable electricity generation equipment can shave off peak electricity demand and allow the monthly utility demand charge - which can be a substantial portion of a city's total monthly electricity bill - to be decreased. Jump-Start - Battery Storage (Clean Energy Group: 2018) presents 10 benefits of battery storage across all elements of the current and emerging reneweable energy system, and recommends over 50 actions to accelerate battery storage deployment.