When state and local institutions work with individual citizens, community problems are often solved. As an example of this approach to problem solving, the Energy Forum "Solutions or Lights Out," scheduled 1 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Deep Portage Conservation Reserve, is involving folks throughout the state.
The concept of connecting citizens to their land-grant university is as old as the historical land-grant philosophy. In Minnesota it began when the state was awarded a land grant. In exchange after the University of Minnesota was built on that land, the state agreed to set up an extension program to connect the university to local communities throughout the state. Thus through the Department of Agriculture education became available to all ages of Minnesotans through the University of Minnesota Extension Services in each county.
As the population grew a partnership with the university was developed by local citizens and the university faculty. In the 1997 and 1999 legislative sessions funding was provided to work with the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. The Central Region Partnership was developed to sustain agricultural, tourism and natural resources.
In the case of the energy forum the University of Minnesota provided the research to local communities. Thus local citizens knew energy would be a problem during the coming decade. In order to deal with population growth and to satisfy a growing need for energy local communities began to plan for the increased energy use during the next six to 10 years. The University of Minnesota continues to provide research results to state citizens as it becomes available.
Once the concept of possible "rolling brown-outs" and increased energy costs, as well as the need for better means of energy production, was explained to local citizens, a new partnership was formed to inform all the citizens in Cass County of the issue.
The University of Minnesota Extension Service, Cass County, became the link with the university. The Central Region Partnership helped by suggesting speakers and providing publicity and printing. The Cass County Extension Committee put together the program.
Deep Portage Conservation Reserve provided the meeting place. Cass County commissioners became partners. Town board members and city officials throughout Cass County were asked to send representatives of their towns and cities to the forum. Most important in the partnership were educators and the local citizens who were invited to attend.
The First National Bank of Walker provided the funds needed for expenses. Paper and envelopes were donated. Support staff was provided by Cass County Extension.
Betsy Engelking, Resource Planning for Great River Energy of Elk River, agreed to come to the forum and talk about the need for planning for future energy needs. Engelking has been speaking throughout the state telling the energy story.
State Sen. Tony Kinkel, a member of the Legislative Committee on Energy and Utilities, will advise the group on legislative plans for dealing with future energy needs.
Warren Candy, general manager of Rapids Power, LLC, will discuss one solution -- the new heat and energy plant proposed by Blandin and Minnesota Power. The new state-of-the-art plant will be built near Blandin Paper in Grand Rapids. Electricity and heat will be provided to the mill and the rest will be sold to regional users.
The Energy Forum thus became a partnership with the University of Minnesota, the state Legislature, with the cooperatives that supply energy to nearly 1.5 million consumers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and with other energy producers and distributors, private businesses and area citizens.
The energy forum is the first of a series of energy programs to be held during the coming months.
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