Tap into the collective power of influential business and NGO pioneers to create new strategies and

 tactics to build a more socially and environmentally conscious state.

The U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce is excited to bring you this series of sustainability leaders who are making a positive impact in Minnesota. Meet the people who are working to improve the environment in Minnesota and around the world. Click here to view all of our Minnesota Leaders.


Michael Noble


Executive Director

Company Name:

Fresh Energy


Saint Paul

1. What is the mission of your company/NGO?
Fresh Energy works to speed the transition to a clean energy economy by shaping and driving realistic, visionary energy policies that benefit all. Working purely in the public interest, Fresh Energy’s team of scientists, economists, policy analysts, and educators develops and advances solutions that secure an economy we thrive in and energy that ensures our well-being.


2. What is the most innovative or environmentally/socially impactful project/practice your company/NGO has implemented?
When Fresh Energy was founded there was almost no renewable electricity on our energy system. Today, because of clean energy policies we’ve helped drive, Minnesota is now a national leader in developing and promoting renewable energy. The amount of solar and wind has increased dramatically—from less than one percent of Minnesota’s electricity in 1992 to nearly 20 percent today.


3. How have those projects positively impacted the local community or state?
Fresh Energy-led policies to spur more renewable electricity have created vital new job growth. Minnesota now has more than 57,000 total clean energy jobs—offering a living wage across the state—and over the past year, Minnesota’s clean energy industry grew nearly four-times faster than the overall job growth in the state.


4. Please share any new projects you will be implementing in the near future.
Fresh Energy is working to increase clean energy access in low-income communities—and taking action to improve energy, data access, and quality of life in rental housing through a new Tenant-Landlord Energy Project. We are also working towards an all-electric economy—getting the oil and gas out of the rest of our economy.


5. What are the biggest challenges you have faced when pursuing or trying to promote sustainable practices/projects?
Fresh Energy’s biggest past successes in clean energy was at a time when there was strong bipartisan support for these issues. In 2007, Minnesota passed sweeping clean energy policies with strong bipartisan support. One of the biggest challenges we faced recently has been watching the issue of clean energy get partisan and the lack of leadership at the federal level.


6. What are your top 3 career accomplishments?
My top accomplishments are bringing together all the civic-minded organizations and public bodies around a better energy future in the 1990s and early 2000s, bringing together both political parties’ leadership in 2007 to pass sweeping bipartisan energy policies, and now having the largest investor-owned utility in the state actively seeking to be the premier low-carbon electric company in America.


7. What inspired you to choose your career path?
At age 23, I read a seminal essay by Amory Lovins that helped me realize that energy was at the root of many of society’s most important challenges—foreign policy, trade, the environment, economic competitiveness, and innovation. I realized that these are five human challenges that can all be addressed by being smart and forward-looking on energy.


8. Personally—Why do you care about sustainability? What is your story?
Fresh Energy can identify a lot of great reasons to pursue a sustainable energy future that are not about the environment. But the climate crisis has always been a primary motivation for me personally. The expected human suffering and loss of biodiversity due to climate change are not legacies I want to leave to my children.


9. What do you think are your biggest strengths as a leader in Sustainability?
I think one of my biggest strengths as a leader is that I’m congenitally disposed towards finding the best in people. I love collaborating and building diverse partnerships. I am also passionate about developing young talent and recruiting mentors.


10. What is/are the biggest incentive(s) for businesses in your area to adopt sustainable practices?
Businesses can improve their triple bottom line by embracing efficient, high performance practices and by powering with renewable electricity, which avoids the volatility of fossil fuels. Broadly, business investment in sustainable practices helps make Minnesota a great place to live, work, and do business, ensuring a competitive advantage for our region both in terms of economic development and attracting talent.


11. What is/are the biggest environmental or social challenge(s) facing Minnesota today?
Thanks to strong energy policy, Minnesota is getting the carbon pollution out of our electric supply. In other sectors of our economy, Minnesota is woefully behind schedule on its goal in state law to cut carbon emissions. Getting the oil and gas out of the rest of our economy is the next big challenge facing Minnesota.


12. What is the most positive action Minnesota has taken to positively impact its environment or social wellbeing?
Minnesota has embraced renewable energy and has become a national leader in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We have reduced the carbon pollution from our electric sector while getting low-cost electricity and spurring job growth in the state. Jobs in the clean energy industry are growing nearly four times faster than overall job growth in the state.




Bonus Questions:

1. What are your thoughts on climate change? What is your company/organization doing to help bring awareness or to help mitigate climate change?
The impacts of global warming are already clear, costly, and widespread. To protect our health, create jobs, and reduce the threat of climate change, we need to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy and dramatically increase energy efficiency. Fresh Energy provides public education, science policy expertise, and data-driven solutions that set the stage for a future rooted in zero-carbon energy.


2. How dedicated are Minnesota’s businesses to corporate social responsibility? List some practices you think would be helpful.
The largest companies in Minnesota are collaborating on energy and climate strategies. They have been leaders in community solar, in energy efficiency, and waste reduction. Current new initiatives include efforts to electrify fleets and procure 100 percent renewable electricity.


3. What has been the most enjoyable part of your role/position/career?
I enjoy being a social entrepreneur—finding ways to be able to connect my passion with an economic value proposition. Just like a small business, Fresh Energy must produce value to get paid to continue our work. I love looking across the landscape and seeing how we can best add value to create progress, meaning, and wealth.


To learn more, please visit Fresh Energy on Facebook and Twitter