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Communities should help foster renewable energy

Bill Glahn, director of the Office of Energy Security, speaks to a small group Wednesday at Red Wing Public Library. Glahn sat down with local residents to discuss how Minnesota is looking to create a clean energy economy. Jon Swedien photo

It's important that Minnesota communities foster the development of renewable energy sources if the state is to create a clean energy economy, said the director of the Office of Energy Security.

Speaking to a small group at Red Wing Public Library on Wednesday, Bill Glahn said his agency is encouraging towns such as Red Wing to see what they can do to promote renewable energy.

"The solution to all this is not going to come from Washington. It's not going to come from St. Paul," Glahn said. Rather, it will happen at the local level.

"What could you do as a local community today?" Glahn asked.

Glahn said he's spent much of this year traveling around the state. On one hand, he's trying to learn what different communities are doing to become greener.

By gathering feedback, Glahn said his office will be able to provide lawmakers with better insight into how they can help entrepreneurs pursue clean energy alternatives.

"What we don't want is a promising idea to never get off the ground" because of a regulatory hurdle, he said.

Also, he's trying to bring communities up to speed on different opportunities that are available and to inform them about exciting developments around the state.

"The technology is there for clean energy," Glahn said. "It's a matter of getting it developed and commercialized."

While there are stimulus dollars and other federal and state programs that can help green entrepreneurs, Glahn said financing is often the biggest hurdle.

"It's a scavenger hunt to put money together," he said, adding that his office's website -- www.energy.mn.gov/ -- is a good resource.

@subhead: Other side of the coin

@normal: Red Wing resident Bill McLaughlin said at the informational session that he appreciated Glahn's rundown of possible renewable energy sources -- from wind and solar power to different types of biomass technologies.

But, he added, people shouldn't expect these alternative energy sources to simply replace petroleum.

"Part of what I'm concerned about is the conservation side," McLaughlin said. In addition to looking for renewable energy sources, people should reduce how much they consume, he said.

How can someone effect such a cultural change?

"That's the $64,000 question," McLaughlin said.

Jerry Olson, another local resident, echoed some of McLaughlin's comments. He said people should look to reduce their energy consumption even if it's an inconvenience.

Olson also said he'd like to see the state use tax polices to create incentives for people to create alternative energy sources or conserve their energy consumption -- which is along the lines of what Glahn said his office is looking to do.