The Energy Innovation Corridor

by: JD Bergquist, Xcel Energy
May 23, 2013

The Energy Innovation Corridor was formed to create a sustainable energy and transportation showcase. The first-of-its-kind, this clean energy and transportation model extends along the 11-mile Central Corridor light rail transit project between St. Paul and Minneapolis now known as the Green Line. 

The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative and the Energy Innovation Corridor share some common goals. Inspired by the Green Line, we both involve a diverse crew of organizations, which work collaboratively to bring about positive results for the people who live and do business along the line.
Collectively, the partners of the Energy Innovation Corridor have been able to achieve great results because we truly partner. Public, private and nonprofit organizations all bring expertise to the table and we work with each other complimenting each others’ strengths to get things done. What things?
We focus on four key areas: energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation and smart technology. Each partner organization sets goals that contribute to the overall objectives. The goals are rolled up into an annual action plan. And we go to work. 
Results so far? Since we began tracking in 2010, we have avoided more than 1.8 billion pounds of carbon. That’s the equivalent of removing more than 173,000 cars from the road (based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator).
Because there are many programs in each of our focus areas and there’s limited time and space – we’ll just provide an example from each focus area:
Let’s start with the most cost-effective and easy way to save energy and money: energy efficiency. The Home Energy Squad provides energy assessments with immediate on-site implementation of low-cost, energy-saving measures such as installing CFL bulbs, programmable thermostats and low-flow showerheads. It was piloted in the Energy Innovation Corridor through partnership with the Neighborhood Energy Connection, Center for Energy and Environment, CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy. 
Next, renewable energy. On the solar front, the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, the Minnesota Office of Energy Security (now the Dept. of Energy Resources) and Xcel Energy partnered to secure Department of Energy grant funding and official designation of the Twin Cities as one of only 26 Solar America Cities in the Nation. The majority of the grant funded projects were done in the Energy Innovation Corridor, many of them leveraging additional support from the Xcel Energy Solar*Rewards and Minnesota Made rebate programs.
Transportation. We have learned from our partners at Drive Electric Minnesota that more than a third of all Minnesota’s air pollutant emissions come from cars and trucks. That’s a big deal, so by focusing on transportation electrification – electric vehicles (EVs) and EV charging – it can be part of solving some of our air pollution problems. 
Last, but not least: smart technology. A very energy-techie project piloted within the Energy Innovation Corridor, called the SmartVAR, intelligently monitors and controls system losses at a distribution level through the use of capacitor banks in the field. By using two-way communications and intelligent centralized software, system losses are minimized on the distribution system. 
Hopefully, this has whetted your appetite and you want to learn more about the Energy Innovation Corridor. Be sure to visit our website to check out the showcase projects, resources, partners and detail on the metrics.
The Energy Innovation Corridor serves as a model for energy and transportation planning. And maybe even more important, it’s a great example of what can be accomplished through collaboration.