Leading the Clean Energy Transition

Businesses, community leaders, and policymakers are key players in the effort to address climate change. Everyone alive today is the first to really experience climate change’s effects, yet we are also the generation with the greatest influence to address it. Climate Generation is committed to working closely with partners who understand this responsibility, and we were proud to co-host Leading the Clean Energy Transition with Xcel Energy, a leader in creating pathways to carbon-free energy.

On Tuesday, October 3, we convened over 70 local business, organization, and policy leaders at the McNamara Alumni Center for a three-hour workshop on climate change stories and clean energy solutions. The program was designed utilizing elements from Climate Generation’s nationally recognized model for Convening the public on climate change to share a combination of speakers, stories and solutions. This event highlighted the influential role private/public partnerships play in pathways to carbon-free energy that leads to deepen local action in Minnesota.

Relive the event

Opening Remarks:

Jothsna Harris, Public Engagement Manager at Climate Generation, welcomed the room and highlighted the importance of creating pathways to clean energy through public and private partnerships. The message that everyone needs to do this work to move toward a future that is possible. Collaboration is more important than ever for addressing the climate change challenge and to fully realize a just clean energy transition.

Main Speakers:

Chris Clark, Xcel Energy–MN President, discussed how Xcel Energy is leading in creating pathways to carbon-free energy and their future renewable energy target goals.


Will Steger, Polar Explorer and Founder of Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, shared his first hand observations of climate change in the polar regions and painted the picture for why this matters in Minnesota.


Lt. Governor Tina Smith discussed Minnesota’s clean energy leadership and what a successful public-private sector partnership might look like as our state’s cities, businesses, and communities continue to move toward a renewable energy future.


Paul Huttner, Minnesota Public Radio Chief Meteorologist, delivered a presentation highlighting current climate science and trends. He emphasized the evidence that our climate is changing, including the last three years successively becoming the hottest on record, the changes we’re seeing in Minnesota, and the tremendous opportunities presented by the thriving clean energy sector. An interactive Q&A followed.

Energy Transition Stories:

For a long time, the dominant narrative on climate change communication has been told from a scientific standpoint, and while that is absolutely critical, it must also be balanced with personal stories in order to make sense of what’s important in our lives.

To prompt attendees’ reflections, they were asked, “what do you value most about your business or community?”

What do you value most about your business or community?


Our work at Climate Generation is deeply connected to the power of story. For over 50 years, Will Steger has inspired thousands of people through his chronicles of arctic adventures and his remarkable eyewitness accounts of climate change on our polar regions. We are seeing the effects of climate change in our everyday lives; what has changed is that now we are all eyewitnesses.

Nick Barth, co-owner of Beaver island Brewing Company in St. Cloud, shared his moment of inspiration to go waste-free with his business and what he’s doing to contribute to the reduction of St. Cloud’s carbon footprint.


Sophia Skinner, Freshman at the University of Minnesota, discussed her initiative to grade her city’s emission levels through iMatter Youth Council and her current work to help youth in Minnesota bring climate change to their local city governments and encourage policy change.


Jay McCleary, retired from City of Red Wing Public Works, shared his love of Minnesota winters and how this passion, combined with more than 33 years of service to the community, led to implementing the state’s first public-private solar-based alternative energy partnership.

Solutions Workshops:

To wrap up the workshop, attendees split into three groups to delve more deeply into a climate change solution of particular interest to their business. Solutions breakout groups included:

  • Green Transportation and Beyond: transportation electrification, renewable energy and energy solutions for operations
  • Climate Communications for Business: frameworks for communicating about climate change with stakeholders using a value-centered, solutions-oriented approach
  • From Efficiency to Renewables, Leveraging Energy Provider Solutions: real-life energy action plan collaboration using a variety of energy solutions

To end the day, attendees wrote down one way in which they or their business would act on climate change in the coming months. A few examples are included below.

“We will take action to reduce carbon emitted from vehicles by looking and acting on electric vehicle charging stations.”


“I will work for equity and climate solutions outside of work. I will innovate at work to challenge businesses to incorporate energy solutions.”


“I commit to taking mass transit to work more!”


“We will continue to work towards building net zero-energy buildings by 2030.”

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