In June 2014, a Citizens Jury came together at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, Minnesota for an intense three-day deliberative forum to discuss risks posed by climate change and develop a shared, community-based response to climate change. The jury, a randomly selected but demographically representative group of 15 citizens, had access to resources and experts to produce their own independent recommendations that responded to the community's needs, priorities, concerns and values. Morris High School students helped assemble data for the meeting through a series of local energy surveys.
After three years of partnership with the City of Morris and the University of Minnesota, Morris, IATP and the Jefferson Center convened two more events; one in December 2017 and one in February 2018. On December 6, 2017, 50 community members gathered to continue the conversation about the future of local energy. Community engagement before the event revealed that community members prioritized reliability and reducing pollution as the two main goals that should drive the county’s future energy actions. At the event, we aimed to determine what local changes would help accomplish those goals. A few main themes appeared: 1) interest in renewable energy, 2) energy efficiency, 3) batteries and storage, 4) local energy ownership and microgrids, and 5) district heating.
The next meeting in February 2018 furthered the conversation. Community members heard from local experts on each of the five focus areas identified at the December meeting. After listening to the presentations, participants discussed the potential benefits, challenges to overcome, and action steps they could take to bring these goals to life. Finally, participants voted on the areas they’d like the community to address first, with district heating, energy efficiency, and local energy ownership rising to the top.
Our continued engagement in Stevens County will focus on partnerships built throughout this process and furthering community-identified needs.