Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has named Abigail Wozniak, director of the Opportunity & Inclusive Growth Institute and senior research economist, to the Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Energy Transition Advisory Committee. This group will advise the governor, lieutenant governor, Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), and the state Legislature on ways to support communities that are impacted by Minnesota’s transition away from older methods of electricity generation.
That transition will involve the closure of some coal, gas, and nuclear power plants in the state. These plants often play a big role in the local economy, providing jobs and a tax base. The mission of the committee, Wozniak said, is to offer a “blueprint” to state leaders on ways to help affected communities adjust as these closures take place.
The composition of the advisory committee reflects the constituencies impacted by power plant closures, with seats reserved specifically for community representatives as well as topical experts. Wozniak’s portfolio on the committee is professional economic development and workforce retraining.
There is an enormous literature in economics on workforce retraining, Wozniak explained, and those studies offer insights about how to reach different groups of workers, what types of training lead to wage gains, and the amount of resources that it takes to make an impact.
“Ensuring that workers, families, and communities continue to thrive as innovation transforms the energy sector is important to the long-run success of these changes. This is a great place to share the rich evidence that comes through the Institute.”
Research on workforce retraining also highlights how valuable program evaluation is to assess whether programs “are doing what we want them to do,” Wozniak said. “Ensuring that workers, families, and communities continue to thrive as innovation transforms the energy sector is important to the long-run success of these changes. I’m glad our state policymakers are keeping this in mind. This is a great place to share the rich evidence that comes through the Institute.”
The advisory committee will hold public meetings approximately once a month in impacted communities around the state. This will help fulfill another part of its mission, which is to act as a liaison between affected communities, workers, and state agencies.
The advisory committee’s work builds on a study by the Minnesota Business Vitality Council that analyzed the issues communities face when power plants transition to new sources of energy or shut down. Based on that analysis, the advisory committee is organizing its work in six categories: community engagement; workforce; tax base/financial assistance; re-use of assets; economic diversification; and other.
More information about the Energy Transition Advisory Committee’s mission, composition, and meeting schedule is available on DEED’s website.