Follow the money: Fresh Energy revisited

Minnesota, as is the case with much of the country, finds itself in the middle of a 1970’s-style energy crisis.

Gasoline and diesel fuel prices are at record levels and the state is being threatened with electrical grid blackouts as summer weather heats up.

Because of years of bad policy decisions, the situation in Minnesota is much worse than other states. Where do these bad ideas come from and who is funding this effort?

For years, Minnesota has been seen as a flyover-country experimental lab by large, out-of-state left-wing foundations, eager to try out their latest fossil-free, renewable energy ideas.

More than a decade ago, my now colleague at the Center, Tom Steward, followed the money to see who was writing the checks, and who was cashing them.

Ten years later, the situation has changed little. Then as now, the state’s leading energy-policy organization calls itself Fresh Energy (tagline: “Bold policy for a just, carbon-free future.”).

The St. Paul-based nonprofit Fresh Energy has taken in more than $22 million in revenue over the last five years for which financial data are available:

To their credit, Fresh Energy is completely transparent as to who is funding their efforts. The organization identifies every donor by name, year after year, right down to the smallest, $1 contributor.

Based on their disclosures, we tracked down a handful of their donors:

The above donations total more than $14 million. The above table is not meant to be an exhaustive list of Fresh Energy’s big-money backers or even a complete list of donations received from those organizations. The point is that Fresh Energy is taking millions of dollars from out-of-state foundations to support a staff of 30 working full-time to influence state energy policy.

To what end? Fresh Energy’s current initiatives include lobbying for more wind and solar power and more electric vehicles.