e21 in the Beginning

Drawn together by a common belief that the current regulatory system would need updating in order for Minnesotans to take full advantage of emerging energy technologies and services, a dedicated group of 25-30 participants and observers agreed to meet monthly—starting in February 2014—over most of a year to reimagine together what such a regulatory framework might look like. These leaders represented utilities, businesses, low-income rate-payer and other consumer advocates, clean energy technology companies, environmental organizations, state agencies, regulators, cities, and other key interests.

This was the beginning of e21’s first phase.
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Transformative Scenario Planning

To guide the overall process, the e21 Initiative used a technique called “transformative scenario planning.”

This is a derivative of traditional scenario planning made famous by Royal Dutch Shell and now used regularly by many institutions to adapt to an uncertain future. Transformative Scenario Planning is an approach to understanding and changing complex systems where one cannot simply derive the answers by looking at history or at best practices because often none exist. It was popularized by Adam Kahane and used effectively in South Africa after apartheid (and elsewhere) as a way to actively shape and transform the future, not just adapt to it.

The key steps to Transformative Scenario Planning are:

  • Assemble leaders from across the system you are trying to change
  • Develop a shared understanding of the “current state” in all its dimensions
  • Develop plausible scenarios (stories) about what could happen in the future (not necessarily what any one interest would want to have happen), in order to illuminate where challenges and opportunities lie, and what choices you have
  • Identify changes and actions that look robust under any future and can bring about the group’s desired future
  • Work with all interested parties to implement the results
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Grounding the Process in a Common Base of Knowledge

As part of developing a shared understanding of “the current state,” the e21 Initiative developed a series of working papers to provide detailed background information and cultivated a common base of knowledge on which to build.

These foundational documents included:

e21 participants also learned about a range of issues through presentations from both e21 stakeholders and outside experts including the George Washington University School of Law, Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Division of Energy Resources, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Rocky Mountain Institute, the Regulatory Assistance Project and Pacific Economics Group.

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Using a Consensus-Based Approach to Develop Recommendations

The e21 Initiative developed its recommendations through a consensus-building process, which means that the participants supported the recommendations, taken as a package, as a framework for moving Minnesota on a path toward achieving the e21 principles and proposed outcomes.

This did not mean, however, that each party was equally enthusiastic about every idea. The key to this process was that all participants supported the package as a whole and, importantly, consensus did not mean that participants had to give up their right to weigh in on future implementation details.

The e21 process was created around the belief that, while reaching consensus is neither fast nor easy, it can lead to solutions that—if implemented together—are more effective and more durable than a majority rule or single-issue result. In the case of e21, the process has produced recommendations that will, among other things:

  • Expand the energy products and services available to customers
  • Support grid modernization and adoption of new technologies
  • Incentivize the energy sector’s operational and system efficiency
  • Ensure utilities have the financial health necessary to continue to provide safe, reliable, affordable, and environmentally sustainable energy
  • Enable the integration and coordination of more actors on the electric system

Phase 2 of the e21 Initiative focused on implementing the recommendations identified in Phase I, including a more detailed examination of questions raised in the first Phase. For more information on the outcomes and activities of the three e21 Phases, please click here.

Phase 2 of the e21 Initiative focused on implementing the recommendations identified in Phase I, including a more detailed examination of questions raised the first Phase.
Explore the outcomes and activities of the three e21 Phases.

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