Sustainability Spotlight: MN and German municipalities partner for success

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the German Interns who had come to Morris to do research related to their respective college programs. Their stay in Morris was facilitated in part by a group called the Climate Smart Municipalities. In this week’s Sustainability Spotlight, I want to focus on the CSM, how it started, why Morris is a part of it, and the overarching importance of partnerships like this one. 

The partnership, which was started in April of 2016, is between 6 Minnesota Cities and 6 German Cities. Duluth is partnered with Siegen, Elk River with Iserlohn, Morris with Saerbeck, Rochester with Munster, White Bear Lake with Ludenscheid, and Warren with Arnsberg. The partnership self-describes itself as a “multi-partner intergenerational collaboration between 12 Minnesotan and German cities.” Each of these cities serves different types of populations in different environments and ecosystems. All of the partner cities have made considerable investments in areas like locally generated energy, clean energy projects, energy efficiency projects, and resident’s energy literacy. Each of these municipalities have identified changing weather, decreased agricultural yields, among others, as major issues that they hope to address through advanced and local action. Additionally, many communities in Germany, and more recently in Minnesota, have identified energy independence as a major goal. By becoming energy independent, communities hope to stabilize the local price of energy and shield their citizens from fluctuating prices of electricity and fuels like natural gas for heating. 

Prior to the partnership Morris had already established itself as a regional leader in sustainability. One example of this leadership is the Morris Model. The Morris Model, which connects stakeholders from around Morris and Stevens Co. helped to spotlight the work that was being done in Morris. As a smaller rural community, pursuing energy efficiency and clean energy projects set us apart from other communities in the state, both big and small. Many of the current clean energy projects and research being done in Morris are at the cutting edge of future methods of clean energy production, clean energy storage, sustainable agricultural practices, and more. Similarly, our partner city of Saerbeck is also on the pioneering edge of clean energy production. Their Bioenergie Park, which is located at a former munitions depot, produced four times more energy than the community consumes. Not only does this create a stable source of energy for the town’s residents, the excess energy can be sold to other surrounding towns and villages which helps to build wealth within their community. In Morris and Stevens Co. we have a goal to produce 80% of the energy we consume by 2030. This would also build wealth and jobs within our community. 

There are many benefits to Morris being involved in this type of partnership. First and Foremost, being a part of this international partnership spreads the word about the work we are doing in Morris to a much wider audience. Earlier this year Morris and the Morris Model were featured in a New York Times article on clean energy developments in smaller communities. The research being done at the West Central Research and Outreach Center has spread even further. Energy professionals at the WCROC have been contacted by stakeholders in energy services from Tanzania, Kenya, and Argentina about their research on using renewable energy to produce hydrogen and ammonia. Another benefit of Morris being a part of this partnership is that we have access to other professionals around the state and in Germany. Having this connection allows us to collaborate with researchers, scientists, and local stakeholders to learn about different types of techniques and practices when it comes to renewable and clean energy technology.