Once in a generation, we have a window of opportunity to shape our energy future. Minneapolis Energy options is about people becoming energy deciders, not just consumers. We need to keep our city’s energy options open so we can secure an affordable, reliable, clean, efficient, and locally-controlled energy future.
Minneapolis Energy Options began as a coalition of organizations and neighbors interested in expanding energy options for the City of Lakes, with a particular eye toward municipalizing energy services. The coalition has since grown into its current form as Community Power a non-profit with the same goals, working in coalition with other community movers and shakers on energy democracy, racial & economic justice, local equitable economic development, and climate. We support energy efficiency & conservation, local renewable energy and democratic community control of our energy system.
Our current role is as a network-builder here in Minneapolis to co-create a local energy economy that builds equitable community wealth rather than extracting it. While our work is deeply rooted in the local, part of our mission is to support communities regionally and nationally create their own place-based energy democracy.
What are we working on now?
A flashback to 2013 & the birth of Minneapolis Energy Options
Minneapolis had 20-year franchise agreements to allow Xcel Energy (for electricity) and Centerpoint Energy (for gas) to construct and maintain energy distribution facilities in the public right of way. These agreements bring in around $23 million annually to the City budget – this is out of an approximately $450 million in annual revenue that Xcel and Centerpoint gain from Minneapolis commercial and residential customers each year. The previous franchise agreement for Xcel expired on December 31, 2014, and the current agreement with Centerpoint expired on January 1, 2015 and were replaced with new franchise agreements negotiated in the summer of 2014.
A group of organizers came together in November 2011, first to discuss if there are ways to use this franchise agreement to advance support for energy efficiency, clean energy, and local ownership. As it became clear that options for changing the energy system through these franchise agreements are limited, we started to explore energy municipalization. While most of the thousands of municipal utilities in existence were formed many decades ago, a number of cities around the nation have recently formed municipal utilities in order to create greater freedom in pursuing energy efficiency and renewable energy. Some cities have seen dramatic increases in their sourcing of renewable energy (over 50% renewable energy in some cases) with declines in energy costs of up to 10% and dramatic investments in energy efficiency.
In early 2013, Minneapolis Energy Options started to receive endorsements from current city council members and candidates running for mayor and city council seats. On the precinct caucus night of April 16th, 2013 the Minneapolis Energy Options resolution for a municipal utility ballot initiative passed at 100% of the precincts that were allowing resolutions to be read and voted on. This momentum paid off at the DFL city convention on June 15th, 2013. The Minneapolis Energy Options resolution was endorsed by a voice vote where support was determined to be clearly over the 60% threshold by the convention chair.
On June 28th 2013, the Minneapolis City Council voted 10-3 in favor of holding an August 1st public hearing for the Minneapolis Energy Options ballot initiative.
Right after this vote, Centerpoint Energy doubled down their efforts to pursue a Memorandum of Understanding with Minneapolis Energy Options so the focus would be taken off of them for the public hearing. The Memorandum Of Understanding was signed and announced on July 23rd 2013, where Centerpoint agreed to many of the campaigns energy goals in exchange for not pursuing a municipal gas utility.
During that same week, Xcel Energy sent out a letter to all 183,000 of its Minneapolis customers that City Council should not offer the ballot initiative to voters, thus spreading the message to a lot of people who were unaware municipal power was even an option.
At the August 1st Public Hearing and in a public letter exchange a week later between David Sparby of Xcel and mayor RT Rybak, Xcel made statements offering to partner with the Minneapolis on reaching the city's energy goals in exchange for not holding a ballot initiative to authorize a municipal utility. Since this letter exchange last August, the central goal of city council and city staff has been to get Xcel and Centerpoint to sign onto a City-Utility Partnership instead of considering a municipal utility in the near-term.
A first in the nation City-Utility Partnership emerges
For 6 months, the city council and staff awaited the February 2014 release of the Energy Pathways Study, which now serves as a guide for the City as it actively pursued its Energy Vision while re-negotiating the expiring franchise agreements. On March 7th, 2014 the Minneapolis City Council unanimously voted to adopt the Energy Pathways Study.
The prime recommendation of the Energy Pathways Study was to form a first-in-the-nation Clean Energy Coordinating Partnership. This would enable the City and utilities to:
● Market, track, coordinate, and report progress on clean energy activities in the City,
● Help harness all available resources to advance the City’s 2013 Climate Action Plan, and
● Provide a basis for collaboration, while helping to hold parties accountable for meeting Plan goals using primarily utility programs and funding.
In order to keep the city utility partnership dynamic and meaningful, the chief goal of Minneapolis Energy Options in 2014 was for the city utility partnership to be inclusive of community input. We were successful with getting the Energy Vision Advisory Committee (EVAC) as an integral part of the Clean Energy Partnership.
On May 29th, 2015 the Clean Energy Partnership board approved it's 2 year work plan with the help of the EVAC.
Having a Clean Energy Partnership with community input from EVAC gives Xcel and Centerpoint an opportunity to demonstrate that they are serious about partnering with the City, with the benefit of giving the city more power over energy decisions. If the Xcel & Centerpoint fail to step up in a significant way, it provides the city with powerful leverage in moving towards competitive energy contracting or other options.
The first opportunity to evaluate if the Partnership is working for the City & its residents is 2019...which makes the 2017 elections key. A vote of 9 out of 13 City Council Members in favor is required to terminate the shortened franchise agreement. Stay tuned for candidate forums!