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Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Roundtable

Roundtable team looks at incentives and tools needed for renewable-energy ventures.

Money is key to a renewable-energy venture’s success. But it’s not the only factor.

Energy projects need to be “technically-viable, market-driven and able to attract investor and creditor financing,” says Jim Boerboom, Minnesota Department of Agriculture deputy commissioner.

Boerboom leads the Minnesota Renewable Energy Roundtable economics and financing team. The Roundtable is a statewide, multi-organizational effort coordinated by AURI to address barriers to Minnesota renewable-energy development.

“The team’s focus is to evaluate the current menu of (financial) incentives and tools to see if they match the needs of next-generation projects,” Boerboom says.

The team recognizes that Minnesota has proactively established programs and funds to support renewable-energy development, Boerboom says. But a “one-stop shop” is needed to guide project managers through the maze of what’s available.

The economics and financing team is working on three key initiatives. First is to gather project information from state and federal sources and evaluate available resources. Second is to establish a renewable-energy investment fund, a low-cost, public-private financing partnership that does not compete with local lenders. The third initiative will examine ways to create incentives for small-scale, locally-owned projects.

“There are so many influences on projects,” Boerboom says. “All the pieces have to be in place” before construction begins.

Boerboom says the Roundtable’s value is having teams in place to address critical issues. Beside economics and financing, other Roundtable teams are addressing renewable-energy infrastructure, talent development, public policy and awareness, and basic and applied research. More than 300 people from 100-plus organizations have participated in Roundtable gatherings.