Taking action on climate change

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges the county faces because of its significant environmental, societal, and economic impacts on both a global and local level.

More and more, Hennepin County residents are starting to notice the effects of climate change – from warming winter temperatures, more extreme precipitation events, and changes in our unique and cherished ecosystems. 

The county leads in many areas that offer the most effective ways to respond to climate change, such as protecting vulnerable people, investing in transit, conserving energy use in our buildings, and protecting our tree canopy. 

In 2020, Hennepin County will develop a Climate Action Plan with initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strategies to adapt to our change climate.  

See Hennepin County taking action on climate change (PDF) to learn what the county is doing and what you can do.

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Developing the climate action plan

Hennepin County is developing a climate action plan that will include initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strategies to adapt to the changing climate in ways that reduce vulnerabilities and ensure a more equitable and resilient Hennepin County. A climate action plan serves as the foundation for a coordinated approach to planning, policy development, and responses to climate change.

Plan priorities

Priorities for the plan include:

  • Ensuring we are prepared to deliver services in times of disruption and shocks
  • Protecting people, especially vulnerable populations, and not making disparities worse
  • Protecting our buildings, roads, infrastructure, and natural resources
  • Pursuing emissions reductions that align with core county functions and existing priorities

Planning approach

The climate action plan will be developed in 2020. The planning process includes the following phases:

  • Phase 1: Research and assessment on climate change impacts and greenhouse gas emission
  • Phase 2: Develop goals and strategies
  • Phase 3: Review, build support, and seek approval
  • 2020 and beyond: Seek and facilitate partnerships to accomplish the work

Internal and external engagement will be conducted throughout the plan development.

Learn about the county's approach for developing the climate action plan (PDF).

Reducing greenhouse gas emission from county operations

Greenhouse gas emission reduction goals

In 2007, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners adopted goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from county operations from 2005 levels by:

  • 15 percent by 2015
  • 25 percent by 2025
  • 80 percent by 2050

The county’s facility services department has also set a goal of reducing energy use by 20 percent from 2013 levels by 2020.

The county’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions rely on both reducing energy use and using cleaner energy by increasing energy efficiency and the generating renewable energy. The effort also includes high performance, more efficient vehicle fleet management and transportation practices and other targeted greenhouse gas emission reduction programs.

How the county uses and produces energy

Buildings and fleet

The county’s vision is to provide reliable energy for the county’s operations while being environmentally and fiscally responsible. Hennepin County is unique in that it not only consumes energy but also produces it by operating a waste-to-energy facility, an energy center, and a solar array.

Buildings are the county’s primary consumer of energy, comprising 85 percent of the total energy used. The vehicle fleet comes in second, consuming 9 percent of energy.

County-owned energy facilities

The county owns two facilities that generate energy:

  • The Hennepin Energy Recovery Facility (HERC) is a combined heat and power facility that exports approximately 31 megawatts to Xcel Energy’s power grid - enough to power 25,000 homes. HERC also provides steam to downtown district energy and Target Field.
  • The Hennepin County Energy Center provides steam and chilled water to the HCMC campus, six county buildings, and three private customers totaling over 6 million square feet of space. The Energy Center can produce 310,000 pounds of steam and nearly 16,000 tons of chilled water.

Solar array

The county also has a solar array on the roof of the Hennepin County Public Works Facility in Medina. The array has more than 500 solar modules and outputs an 80 kilowatts of power. The array supplies five percent of the building’s electrical needs and prevents 100 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

View the system's online monitoring dashboard, which shows the amount of electricity generated, greenhouse gas emissions avoided, and environmental benefits of the solar array.

2015 goal achieved

Hennepin County achieved the 2015 goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from county sources by 15 percent. Many factors contributed to the county's success, including:

  • Xcel Energy made efforts to provide cleaner electricity by increasing the use of renewable energy provided.
  • The county implemented numerous energy conservation and efficiency measures, including high-efficiency building design, recommissioning of buildings, upgrading lighting, installing building controls, and changing operation and maintenance efforts to reduce the total amount of energy consumed.

Learn more

View charts showing the county's progress (PDF) toward our greenhouse gas emissions reduction and energy reduction goals.

See our video about how we’re conserving energy in Hennepin County buildings (YouTube).

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