Last week, the world came to Saint Paul to talk about energy. The International District Energy Association (IDEA) annual conference arrived on our doorstep on June 20th and provided four days of exciting education and dialogue, innovation sharing, and opportunities to showcase our city, our system, and our region. Like district energy, the association has been around for over 100 years to help cities, campuses, communities, and businesses to develop solutions, best practices, and connections that help advance energy systems. This past week, I think we exemplified our industry’s capabilities and our great potential by engaging more people in the energy conversation.
To kick things off, Mayor Chris Coleman received a United Nations recognition for the City of Saint Paul as one of three Champion Cities in the United States. This distinction honors urban areas committed to developing and sharing district energy policies with other cities and working cooperatively toward a cleaner, more resilient future. In total, the United Nations has named 45 Champion Cities around the globe. We are so proud of our longstanding partnership with the City of Saint Paul, which has helped earn this great recognition. We will continue to work together toward resilience and environmental progress for our community.
The rest of the week was a whirlwind of amazing presentations, forums on developing future industry talent, dinners at our fantastic local restaurants, and tours of our solar installation and central plant, as well as facilities in Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota Campus. It was tremendous to share what we have learned about technology integration, customer service, utility business management, and our education and engagement programming with our industry peers. Folks were even asking if they could come back to Saint Paul every year! It is an impressive compliment to have this audience see the value in connecting with the experts and leaders in our region.
During the conference, our former President and CEO, Anders Rydaker, was presented with the Life Member recognition. Anders has done so much for our system, our industry, and the community. We are grateful for his momentous contributions and to be continuing the legacy he has established.
In my time with this company, I have had many proud moments, but hosting this event will certainly rank near the top. I am so proud of our team for helping the incredible IDEA team to host over 800 attendees and representatives from 19 countries and 246 different cities. As our customers and our partners, I am grateful for all of your efforts to help us with this internationally significant event and supporting the growing importance of smart and efficient energy systems.
Saint Paul Presented with Champion City Recognition
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognized the City of Saint Paul as a “Champion City,” a distinction honoring urban areas committed to developing and sharing district energy policies with other cities and working cooperatively toward a cleaner, more resilient future. Mayor Chris Coleman accepted the award on behalf of the city, as part of the official opening of the 107th Annual International District Energy Association (IDEA) Conference and Trade Show hosted by District Energy St. Paul. The mayor was praised for his long-time commitment to the city’s sustainability and district energy policies.
“Local leadership and support from city government is critically important to accelerating deployment of district energy as a sustainable, low-carbon energy solution,” said Robert Thornton, president and CEO of IDEA. “We want to commend the City of Saint Paul for understanding the vision and potential of district energy and for being a true partner in enabling this world-class asset to fully realize its potential.”
“The City of Saint Paul is proud to receive this recognition from the United Nations and join these other distinguished cities in promoting solutions for sustainability and planning for our changing climate,” Mayor Coleman said. “We are fortunate to have great partners in our community, including District Energy St. Paul, who have helped the city advance its environmental achievements and set more ambitious goals for our next generation of smart energy infrastructure, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.”
In addition to hosting this year’s conference, the Twin Cities region is home to dozens of district energy systems serving cities, communities, and campuses. As a UNEP Champion City, Saint Paul joins a network of more than 45 global Partner Cities, such as Copenhagen, Denmark; Helsinki, Finland; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, sharing insights and experiences with other communities around the world to accelerate the deployment of district energy in metropolitan areas. Learn more about the program.
District Energy St. Paul Earns Bronze and Silver Awards for System Growth and Retention
Annually since 1990, the International District Energy Association (IDEA) has polled its member district energy systems to report the number of buildings and their area in square feet that have been committed or connected to district energy service during the previous calendar year. In recognition of service growth and retention, the top three organizations in each category are recognized during the annual conference. For 2015, District Energy St. Paul earned a Silver Space Award for number of buildings committed in the North America category. We were also honored to earn the Bronze Space Award for total building area committed in the North America category. Beyond the award recognition, District Energy is pleased to see new customers joining our heating and cooling systems, and that our customers continue to choose us as their preferred service provider. We will continue working hard to build our value proposition to our customers and earn new business and customer loyalty.
Sharing What We Have Learned
District Energy St. Paul prides itself as a dynamic organization that is constantly looking for ways to learn, grow, and improve. We have worked hard to keep our Saint Paul system as an international model, and we are proud that our facilities and our team members can share their learnings with others in the industry and our community. During this year’s IDEA conference, our team shared our experience with technology integration, business development, utility and operation optimization, and community engagement through presentations and facility tours. It was particularly exciting to host over 200 people in our plant and over 50 people on the roof of the Saint Paul RiverCentre to learn about our large-scale solar thermal installation. We had an engaged audience, and we hope we helped other systems realize their technology integration potential. Visit our photo gallery to see great images from our tours, captured by local photographer, Mike Krivit.
Inviting the Community to the Conversation
District Energy takes pride in being a community-based organization, which means inviting the community into the work we do and how we plan for our energy future. Hosting the IDEA Annual Conference provided us with a unique opportunity to create a community event to share emerging energy trends, showcasing Minnesota and international perspectives. Our team facilitated a dynamic and informative speaker session, sharing a broad range of perspectives on our current and future energy systems, with the intention of opening up new conversations and connections between industry professionals, citizens, educators, students, government representatives, and business leaders. The speakers included Commissioner Shawntera Hardy (Minnesota Department of Economic Development), Ken Smith (Ever-Green Energy), Jakob Bjerregaard (Danish Embassy), Werner R. Lutsch (The Energy Efficiency Association – Germany), and Dr. Massoud Amin (University of Minnesota). It was a riveting session that we hope sparked new ideas for working together to advance our energy systems and bring more people into the discussion.
We were also thrilled to host an engagement reception to connect higher education students, teachers, local leaders, experts, and conference attendees. We featured unique art and science engagement activities, including the new Water Bar and the Really Big Table (to share really big ideas), a project connected through the Springboard for the Arts Ready Go program. It was a tremendous evening with new experiences, new connections, and we hope it opened up the potential for future community energy conversations.
Connecting with our customers is an essential part of improving our business. We try to connect with customers throughout the year to better understand how to better serve their needs and help them optimize their interconnection with District Energy. We are grateful for our many partners and the incredible loyalty of our customer base, and we host a special event each year to show our gratitude. At this year’s customer appreciation day we hosted more than 50 customers at our new office in the historic Jemne building on St. Peter Street and Kellogg Boulevard. Our new building showcases how older or redesigned buildings can be retrofitted with technology that efficiently connects to our heating and cooling system, including a unique pre-assembled mechanical skid. During the event, customers had the opportunity to see the new mechanical system and tour our new office space. In addition to this event being a great opportunity for our team to connect with customers, it was also a great chance for customers to connect with each other. Thanks to those of you that were able to attend the event. As always, we encourage you to contact our team if you have any questions about your services and how we can serve you better.
Connecting with the Saints
Just days before the Saints kicked off their second season at CHS Field in Lowertown, we were happy to sponsor the World’s Largest Game of Catch in collaboration with Saint Paul’s leading experts on fun. In addition to playing ball and meeting players, our team had a great time meeting people who live and work in buildings we serve. Community events like this offer us a great opportunity to meet more District Energy customers and talk to them about how to efficiently and effectively use our system. The Saints have also created a great opportunity for us to connect with Saint Paul’s next generation of leaders, local students. This year we sponsored the Education Day activities, including a parade to CHS Field. We were also thrilled to work with the Saints to create a short science and energy education film to help students better understand where some of their energy comes from. The Saints have been a tremendous partner in helping us promote our energy education initiatives and bringing so much vitality to downtown.