Duluth takes the first step towards cleaner energy with steam plant

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson announced the pilot project Tuesday afternoon. Howie Hanson / HowieHanson.com
By Pakou Ly

As part of Mayor Emily Larson’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions, Duluth Energy Systems will be testing out a summer pilot initiative to go 100% coal free.

Mayor Larson has set an aggressive goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80% in 2050 and 15% in her first Mayoral term. To achieve these goals, Mayor Larson identified three strategies during her State of the City address: conservation, looking at renewable energy, and reducing emissions from our utilities.

“Duluth will lead our regional transformation towards clean energy, and we start that transformation today. For the next several months we’ll be running a coal free energy service for our 200+ downtown customers by switching to 100% natural gas. It’s a clean win for Duluth and our environment,” said Mayor Larson. “Securing our $21M bonding request for a closed loop hot water system continues to be our focus for this legislative session. We will keep up our efforts there, but we won’t wait to address what we can, where we can. This is a huge first step in achieving our goal of 15% reduction in greenhouse gas during my first Mayoral term.”

The pilot will run from April through October thanks to recent plant improvements which make this natural gas option possible. The project is expected to be cost neutral and there are no changes to the utility service for customers. The steam plant is fueled with an average total of 50,046 tons of coal during the year which could fill a Laker ship.

Implementing this pilot means that the steam plant will use about 20,638 tons less coal (which represents a 41% reduction or about half of a Laker ship) and is estimated to lower greenhouse gases at the plant by about 15% (comparable to 28 million miles driven for an average car). Actual emissions data will be collected monthly and monitored by Duluth Energy Systems to determine feasibility of implementing supplemental fuel sources, such as natural gas, into the future.

A long-term conservation strategy such as this pilot would meet 10% of the Mayor’s 15% emissions reductions goal during her first term.

Ken Smith, CEO of Ever-Green Energy who manages Duluth Energy Systems, stresses the importance of this pilot and collaboration, “We are excited to make an improvement to the fuel profile of Duluth Energy Systems services. This is a critical step for the City and we stand ready to help Duluth move towards cleaner energy and achieve carbon savings.”


Duluth Energy Systems is the city-owned steam plant that has provided the Canal Park and Central Business Districts with stable, reliable heat since 1932. The Duluth energy system provides heating to 165 buildings in Canal Park and downtown Duluth.

Duluth Energy Systems values the business relationships with its customers and work around the clock to deliver low-cost and reliable services from the Duluth Steam plant in Canal Park. Its focus on customer service is expected to provide opportunities for growth, which is one way to help stabilize customer rates.

Friday Notebook: Duluth transitioning to new customer emergency notification system

The City of Duluth will be transitioning to a new emergency notification system to help the public stay up to date on weather or utility related incidences or emergencies. Providing a reliable and effective communication tool is an important customer service goal of the City.

The City had been using Code Red, a free subscription service, but is now in the process of implementing a new system called Everbridge, that will be even more user-friendly for customers and for those staff administering the system. Everbridge will be free to subscribers and also uses email, text or phone calls as notification tools. Code Red will no longer be active starting April 1. The City Public Works and Utilities sent a final message to Code Red subscribers today.

The City will be issuing public notices with instructions for registration on its website (www.duluthmn.gov) once Everbridge is activated in the next few weeks. In the meantime, any outages related to gas or water can be accessed from this webpage, http://www.comfortsystemsduluth.com/outages/ Customers can also call the Public Utility Operations office at (218) 730-4130 for updates.

Duluth Economic Development Authority hones in on developer for waterfront parcel

By Pakou Ly
The Duluth Economic Development Authority today announced its recommendation of Hoff-Giuliani Development Team in a search for a future developer of Lot D, a prime undeveloped 12-acre waterfront parcel. The lot sits between the recently opened Pier B Resort Hotel and Compass Minerals.

The DEDA issued a Request for Proposals back in the spring of 2016. The proposal review included an extensive and thoughtful process and diverse expertise of review panelists. The parcel has 12 acres of developable land with 1,500 feet of lake frontage and is zoned as Mixed-Use Waterfront (MU-W). The preferred concept proposal includes a mixture of commercial use, unique retail, some housing, and is meant to be a waterfront destination venue with family friendly attractions.

“Lot D is a major phase in the waterfront’s transformation,” said Heather Rand, City of Duluth Business and Economic Development Director. “The DEDA received very strong proposals. The Review Committee dedicated a significant amount of time in making this recommendation and felt Hoff-Giuliani Development Team best represented the objectives laid out in the RFP. DEDA looks forward to working with the development team upon approval by commissioners.”

DEDA commissioners will be presented with an Option Agreement at their March 22 meeting for review and approval. The option agreement lists milestones and enables temporary property access for the development team to conduct their due diligence over the next 12 months and explore geotechnical issues, site opportunities and challenges to ensure financial feasibility of elements in their proposal. Following this phase, the developer may return to DEDA and pursue a development agreement to officially purchase the property; assuming conditions are met.

“The Hoff-Giuliani development team are honored to be chosen to pursue the development of Lot D,” said said Hoff-Giuliani Development Team spokesman Sandy Hoff. “Duluth has evolved to become one of the premier lifestyle communities in the Midwest and we hope to create a development on Lot D which contributes positively to our amazing community,”

Mayor Emily Larson touted the selection: “As a site, Lot D physically links residents, our waterfront, new economic growth and our industrial activity. Because of the success of this development team in addressing complicated slip and development issues at Pier B, I believe this team presents the experience required to match that success at Lot D. Having taken time to understand their approach and ideas, I also know this team appreciates the importance of balancing public benefit and greater good with private investment and economic development. That’s important to me, and I know it’s important to our community. I’m looking forward to their progress and working together to activate this important site.”

Duluth State of City Address March 20

By Pakou Ly
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson will deliver her second State of the City Address on Monday, March 20, reporting on her first year in office and laying out her vision for the upcoming year.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson
“This past year as flown by but I am so proud of the work we have done as your City government and as a community,” said Larson. “I wake up every day with deep pride and gratitude for the people that contribute to making Duluth the best place to live. There are realities that our community faces each day; realities that can be daunting and uncertain at times. Yet, I know each one of us has the courage and tenacity to wake up each day and do what is right, what is just and what best serves our community. Our strength lies in our community members and I invite residents to join with me to make the city we love even better.”

The State of the City address will be held at the Lincoln Park Middle School auditorium, 3215 West Third Street.

The doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the official program begins at 6 p.m. with welcome remarks from City Council President Joel Sipress. Mayor Larson will commence her speech at 6:15 p.m. Live coverage is provided by the Northland’s NewsCenter on My9.

The State of the City is a free event open to the entire community.

A Duluth Transit Authority is partnering to provide free round trip shuttle service to the school with pick up from the Harrison Community Center, at 3002 West Third Street, every 15 minutes starting at 5:15 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.