(TNS) -- Rochester is among five Minnesota cities that are collaborating with five German cities to seek climate-smart energy strategies.

Duluth, Elk River, Morris, Rochester and Warren will participate in Climate Smart Municipalities, a new international ideas and technology exchange program that is part of the German government's Transatlantik-Programm, according to a University of Minnesota news release.

In 2013, the state of Minnesota and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) signed an agreement to cooperate on renewable energy and energy efficiency. That framework agreement enables Germany's NRW to partner with the University of Minnesota.

Ray Schmitz, the chairman of the Rochester Energy Commission, said "This project provides an opportunity to exchange ideas and to see if there are ideas we can take advantage of from the experience."

Schmitz talked said Rochester has a lot of support for renewability and sustainability. Rochester Public Utiltiies, Citizens Climate Lobby, and Mayor Ardell Brede are among the groups and people are pushing for 100 percent renewable energy by 2031.

"People are interested in preceding a sustainable course towards renewable energy," Schmitz said.

Rochester will take part in four key elements every year over the next three years (2016, 2017, 2018). The first element is a collaborative workshop-study tour for MN municipal leaders and stakeholders in NRW to meet with partner communities and experts. The second element is carrying out tailored work programs established based off of research at both the U of M and the NRW research institution. The third element is forum events in Minnesota to share information and to learn with the broad community. The final element is a study tour for NRW partner community leaders and experts in Minnesota.

According to project lead Sabine Engel, the program director for International Energy Policy and Cooperation at Institute on the Environment, Minnesota cities that were interested applied and projected proposals from which 19 members of a selection committee chose the core group- consisting of Duluth, Elk River, Morris, Rochester and Warren.

The main goal of this project, according to Engel, is to expand what communities are already doing and transition each city to more sustainable opportunities. People are needed from all directions to tackle this challenge with the ending goal being renewable energy.

Although this project is a collaborative effort, Engel made it very clear it's not a "one size fit's all" for each city. There are individualistic goals and outcomes for five very diverse communities.

"The partnership between Minnesota and Germany is fantastic," said Engel. "Three years from now, I want to look back and point to the remarkable things that happened because of this project."

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