Woman-Led Nonprofit Celebrates 20 Years of Impact Shaping the Midwest Renewable Energy Marketplace
Beth Soholt has been the Executive Director of
Clean Grid Alliance for 20 years
ST. PAUL, MINN. (March 24, 2022) – Clean Grid Alliance (CGA) is celebrating 20 years of advancing renewable energy in the Midwest. Serving as the "power behind the power," CGA has been tackling the issues to transition our electricity grid to clean energy resources like wind and solar powerby engaging in policy, regulatory, and technical issues in the venues where key decisions are made. The organization has been woman-led by Executive Director Beth Soholt for all of its 20 years.
Over 20 years, CGA has made significant contributions to the advancement of renewable energy in the Midwest by engaging in legislative, regulatory, and MISO processes. Below are a few key results and the impact of CGA's involvement:
• 210% growth in wind capacity in the Midwest in the last 10 years
• Expanded from 700 MW of wind in 2001 to more than 28,000 megawatts of renewable energy on the MISO grid today. This represents an economic development investment of over $50 billion in the Midwest
• Engaged in nearly 3,000 miles of transmission line projects, representing over $7 Billion in investment into our infrastructure and enabling over 30,000 MW of renewables to power our homes and businesses
• CGA's work in state legislatures resulted in an established Renewable Portfolio Standard or goal in most every MISO state
• Advocating for saving time and money, CGA's advocacy at MISO recently reduced the time needed to complete the interconnection queue process by over 25%
• Streamlining regulatory processes in several states to make the siting process more efficient
• Represents the Environmental Sector on MISO's Advisory Committee and Planning Advisory Committee
• Leading the way to add robust amounts of new utility scale solar projects to the electric grid
In the early 2000s, utilities and the regional transmission operator, Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), were beginning to raise concerns about transmission bottlenecks in getting wind power from rural southwest Minnesota to the load centers, but no one was working on these issues. In 2001, the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) established "Wind on the Wires" as a project to work on overcoming the two main hurdles facing utility-scale wind power development in the Midwest – bottlenecks in the power grid and antiquated transmission rules. The organization re-branded as "Clean Grid Alliance" in 2018 to better reflect its expanded focus on wind, solar and storage technologies. Yet, the organization's mission has remained intact for two decades, and has arguably become even more important.
Reflecting on CGA's history, current Chairman of the Board Adam Sokolski, Director, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, EDF Renewables, recalled a trip to Southwest Minnesota's Buffalo Ridge area in the early 2000s. "The community in South Dakota really wanted wind development, but they couldn't get it and they didn't understand why. The conversation we had that day was the initial 'Wind on the Wires' discussion – some of the wind development that you want is locked in because there's no transmission to deliver it," said Sokolski.
"CGA's deep expertise on the physical energy system, broad and deep relationships, and regional presence positions it well to advance the transition we need to see to achieve the region's climate and clean energy goals," said Aimee Witteman, former Director of U.S. State Policy, Climate Imperative, and former McKnight Foundation Program Director, Midwest Climate & Energy. "CGA is an essential part of the clean energy advocacy fabric in the Midwest. Its deep knowledge, work to make clean energy a nonpartisan issue, and partnership formed are some of the unique strengths of CGA. Its work with MISO and developers to transform the grid are essential elements of what needs to happen in the Midwest as we electrify the economy and provide clean energy for all."
CGA's leadership and engagement in the policy, regulatory, and technical processes at the state and regional level has been instrumental in driving the transition to a renewable energy economy in the Midwest. By uniting nonprofit and for-profit interests, CGA successfully crafts, then implements, clean energy policy initiatives.
"The implementation piece, and our ability to build partnerships with key stakeholders and bring them to the table, really sets us apart from other advocacy organizations that primarily focus on setting policies," said Beth Soholt, Executive Director, Clean Grid Alliance.
"I had the pleasure of serving as Board Chair of CGA for five years and on the board for a decade," said Julie Voeck, Senior Director, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, NextEra Energy Resources. "During that time, CGA transitioned from a focus on wind to all forms of renewable energy, including solar and battery storage. CGA also recognized that policy decisions at the local, state, and regional level all have impacts on the ability to build renewables. They have been successful in advancing pro-renewable policy by developing coalitions and through collaboration with its diverse membership and stakeholders."
Beth Soholt, CGA's executive director, is also the "power behind the power"
"For the past 20 years, Beth Soholt has been the most tenacious, steadfast advocate for expanding the Midwest grid to accommodate the region's renewable energy resources," said Sokolski. "Her leadership has been critical to building the political and technical support among regulatory authorities, utilities and transmission owners, and renewable energy advocates needed to get new transmission approved. Beth's and Clean Grid Alliance's work has directly led to new transmission lines being built which have been absolutely necessary to build wind and solar in the MISO footprint. Without Beth, the Midwest would have far fewer megawatts of renewables installed."
"Beth has been able to balance the interests of many organizations within the renewable industry – including owners and operators of renewables as well as nonprofit organizations to advance pro-renewable energy policies. The state and local policy work, where CGA is a recognized leader, has resulted in the development of thousands of megawatts of renewable energy across the Midwest and MISO region. It is through Beth's leadership that CGA has become a recognized pro-renewable policy leader through vision, determination and collaboration across multiple stakeholders," said Voeck.
Beth Soholt was officially hired as Wind on the Wires Executive Director on June 3, 2002. Since then, she has been working with the electric industry in various capacities.
• Beth received her first Wind Energy Advocacy Award in 2006 from the American Wind Energy Association "for outstanding leadership and support of wind through effective advocacy."
• In 2011, the national group Women of Wind Energy (WoWE) named Beth Woman of the Year.
• Beth was selected by her peers as one of three NGO representatives on the Stakeholder Steering Committee of the Eastern Interconnection Planning Collaborative (EIPC).
• The American Clean Power Association presented her with an "Excellence in Transmission Advocacy" award at the 2016 Windpower Conference in recognition of CGA's (WOW's) work on MISO's 17 Multi-Value Transmission Projects.
• Beth received an Excellence Award in 2021 from the Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG) for her leadership in advancing the understanding of the need for transmission for wind integration in the Upper Midwest.
At CGA, Beth holds a seat on the board of directors, and directs activities in the areas of technical/transmission planning, state regulatory proceedings, legislative education and outreach. She has held a seat on the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) Advisory Committee representing the Environmental Sector since 2002.
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Clean Grid Alliance (CGA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in St. Paul, Minn., whose mission is to advance renewable energy in the Midwest. Launched in 2001, CGA has been an active stakeholder in the MISO process at the state and regional levels and a leading organization working on transforming state energy policy. CGA's membership includes industry representatives working in wind, solar and storage as well as environmental nonprofit organizations, public interest groups, clean energy advocates, farm groups, and businesses providing goods and services to the renewable energy industry who come together to reduce carbon and deliver a renewable energy future. Learn more at cleangridalliance.org.