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Extension > Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships > Southwest > Sustainable Tourism and Resilient Communities > Greater Milan Initiative Sustainable Energy Utility Planning Process

Greater Milan Initiative Sustainable Energy Utility Planning Process

Project files


The Greater Milan Initiative (GMI) has begun a new project called the Sustainable

Energy Utility (SEU). The SEU is a non-profit entity which will provide a comprehensive package of sustainable energy services. The initial focus will be to provide education, technology and financing sources for area residents to improve energy efficiency for their residences and businesses.


City of Milan
Greater Milan Initiative Board
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Mortenson Foundation
Milan Community Education
Sustainable Energy Utility—Milan
West Central Clean Energy Resource Team


  • Conducted a one day strategic planning session that clarified GMI’s vision and direction for the next 2 – 5 years.
  • Appointed and gave direction to a Preliminary Planning Team that will recommend to the GMI board structure and strategies for forming the SEU.
  • Raised funds to hire an SEU Coordinator to assist the Preliminary Planning Team.
  • Established an administrative position to support the volunteer community team that formed the Sustainable Energy Utility.


Developed SMART strategies at strategic planning session.

  • Formed an SEU board of directors.
  • Hired a part time administrative coordinator.
  • Held 4 energy savings workshops plus one additional workshop.
  • Coordinated city of Milan’s participation in the GreenStep Cities program.


First Quarter, November 2009 - February 2010

  • A strategic planning session with UM Extension facilitator, Toby Spanier, took place in August 2009. SMART strategies were developed. SMART stands for: specific, measurable, action orientated, realistic, timeline.
  • Conducted light bulb exchange project in cooperation with LQVP YES team.
  • Hired first SEU coordinator, Bergen Johnson.
  • Lac Qui Parle Valley High School Youth Energy Summit Team sponsored a Phantom Load Workshop at the high school on November 16. Twelve people attended. Co-sponsors included LQPV Community Education and the LQP County Economic Development Authority.
  • Bergen Johnson resigned and Erik Thompson took over as interim coordinator.
  • GMI hosted meeting of the West Central Clean Energy Resource Team on December 22, 2009.
  • The SEU received a $5,000 CERT grant to train Milan residents in basic strategies for increasing energy efficiency and conservation in their homes and businesses. The technical assistance provider was the Center for Earth Energy and Democracy (CEED) at the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy (IATP).
  • Erik updated the Milan City Council, whose members had previously requested quarterly reports from the SEU.
  • GMI/SEU contracted with UM Morris for a student worker, Joe Dunlavy, who worked 10 hours per week through May. His work focused on developing a community energy assessment for Milan and on coordinating a small loan program in conjunction with the State sponsored appliance rebate program (a small scale revolving loan project.)
  • The SEU submitted a $10,000 grant request to the Headwaters Fund for Social Justice to help with organizing for the energy basics workshops.
  • IATP staff visited Milan on February 18. Dr. Cecilia Martinez presented an SEU 101 power point presentation which was videotaped for future use.
  • Second Quarter, March – May 2010

    • Milan Movers authorized $1000 for ten $100 loans for State sponsored appliance rebate program.
    • Headwaters Fund turned down SEU grant request for funds to organize the energy basics workshops.
    • Michele Skogrand took over as SEU coordinator
    • Planning team met with Bill Klyve from Ottertail Power to talk about energy improvements to the community center building. He recommended exchanging all the lights in the building as soon as possible because the lighting rebates would end in Sept. OTP assisted with collecting energy usage data from energy workshop participants.
    • SEU leaders met with representatives from Prairie Five to enlist their help in providing resources for the energy basics workshops.
    • Student worker, Joe Dunlavy, designed data shell for assessment work. Energy cost info collected for Greater Milan Initiative, Prairie Sun Bank, Bergen’s Prairie Market and the City of Milan. Additional businesses targeted included Milan Elevator, Kviteseid Church, and select households in Milan.
    • The Greater Milan Initiative was awarded $80,600 for energy efficiency improvements to the community building. The grant application process highlighted the value of an SEU type resource center that would provide easy access to information sources for individuals, businesses, and organizations who want to make energy efficiency and conservation improvements.
    • Contract was finalized with IATP for CERTs funded energy basics workshops.
    • Shared Leadership Team (Michele Skogrand, Erik Thompson, Cheryl Landgren) began to organize for the energy basics workshops.
    • Recruitment for energy basics workshops launched at GMI annual meeting on April 16.
    • SEU planning team and others met with CERTs West Central Coordinator Jeff Vetsch on April 19 to talk about energy and sustainability issues in Milan. Jeff presented the GreenStep Cities project for Milan’s consideration.
    • Members of the West Central Partnership Community Energy Team participated in April 21 SEU Planning Team meeting to help evaluate progress in forming the SEU.

    Third Quarter, June – August 2010

    • Center for Earth Energy and Democracy at IATP developed a curriculum for energy workshops
    • SEU continued recruitment and organizing efforts for the energy workshops.
    • SEU Planning Team met on July 21 with Shalini Gupta, Director of the Center for Earth Energy and Democracy, in attendance.
    • First energy workshop conducted on July 21 with 18 participants.
    • Ann Thompson and Cheryl Landgren participated on a roundtable discussion panel about the SEU at the Midwest Rural Assembly (August 16, 17).
    • Sixteen attended second energy savings workshop on August 25. Topic was weatherization.
    • SEU planning team members received $1,140 from Milan City Council to coordinate initial efforts of the GreenSteps Cities Program. SEU coordinator would facilitate the formation of a working group that would recommend which best practices to pursue.

    Fourth Quarter, September –November 2010

    • GMI approved establishment of an SEU board which replaced the Preliminary Planning Team (PPT). The board would oversee further development of the SEU model in Greater Milan.
    • First SEU board meeting took place on Sept 22.
    • Eighteen participated in third energy savings workshop on Sept 22; topic was slashing energy bills.
    • SEU conducted outreach campaign to inform Milan business owners about rebates from Ottertail Power for building improvements and lighting exchange. Rebates applied for by Prairie Sun Bank, Bergen’s Prairie Market, Arv Hus Museum/billy maple tree’s gift shop, Appleton Meat Center, the City of Milan and Kvietseid Church.
    • Kevin Hein, workshop participant and certified energy auditor, conducted blower door tests for six workshop participants on October 20 and 21. The tests helped residents determine specific needs for weatherization actions. West Central Tribune covered the event.
    • Ten participated in fourth and final energy savings workshop on October 27; topic was “big appliances.” Participants filled out evaluations and “commitment to action” forms that specified “behavioral change” actions each participant would take to reduce energy consumption and costs.
    • SEU board met on October 27.
    • Five citizens participated in first GreenStep Cities working group meetings in October and November.
    • Twelve participants attended extra workshop on Energy Audits December 1st, open to the public.

    Timeline changed from February 2010 to July 2010 due to staff changes at GMI. Also, the primary workshop presenter was on maternity leave from mid March through early June 2010. We also determined that summer and early fall would be a better time to present the workshops, since residents will begin to think about the upcoming winter and their potentially high heating bills.

    • GMI did not receive a requested grant to help with workshop organizing and recruitment, so that process slowed down due to very limited staffing for the project. The good news is that community volunteers stepped up to help with recruitment and organizing.
    • The Laura J. Musser Fund and Headwaters Fund rejected our grant requests causing there to be less money for staffing needs, no money for rent for the energy resource center and the SEU office and no money to start a revolving loan fund.
    • Certain funding opportunities for our partners failed to materialize. Our emerging sister SEU in St. Paul does not receive a Carts grant; we had hoped to share expenses for the energy basics workshops with the West St. Paul Community Organization. Also, IATP experienced some funding set backs, which required rethinking the strategies for developing community energy analysis tools.
    • Since the SEU was unsuccessful in obtaining additional funding from the Laura Musser Foundation and the Headwaters Foundation grant, the establishment of an energy information center was somewhat diminished. However, IATP/CEED gathered a lot of information on local utility rebates and government grants and loans available to local residents.


    In-Kind 4,200.00
    Outside 0.00
    Volunteer 0.00
    State Special 12,650.00
    Total 16,850.00

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