This fall, Community Power and partner organizations have taken advantage of a rare opportunity to take the offense rather than be on defense in addressing the climate crisis via an elected governmental body.
On December 4th, 2017 we mobilized a total of 32 people to speak in unanimous support of the Clean Energy Partnership Franchise Fee Funding Plan at a public hearing held by the Minneapolis City Council Ways and Mean Committee.
City Council had to take a series necessary steps to unlock a $2.2- $2.8 Million-per-year reliable stream of funding for scaling up the work of the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership so that the City can get on track to meet its Climate Action Plan goals. The mayor's 2018 budget proposal arranged the funding increase to come from a 0.5% increase in the gas and electric franchise fee (57 cents per month for average residential customer) instead of from property taxes or from competition with city basic operations budget items.
Prior to the December 4th public hearing, the City's lead staff for the Clean Energy Partnership Luke Hollenkamp and Patrick Hanlon along with EVAC co-chair Matt Kazinka gave a presentation on Potential Programming for Utility Franchise Fee Increase revenue.
In addition, the Clean Energy Partnership Franchise Fee Funding Plan was also the single most frequently invoked subject among the speakers at the December 6th final City Budget public hearing in front of the full council.
On Friday, December 8th, all present members of the City Council gave unanimous final approval to both of these ordinance changes with no additional commentary and in a vote that also included all other items in the Ways & Means Committee Report (from the same meeting as the December 4th public hearing).
THE ORIGINATING VISION BEHIND THE MINNEAPOLIS CLEAN ENERGY PARTNERSHIP
Back about 5 years ago, Community Power originated as a campaign called Minneapolis Energy Options whose goal was to try to get both utilities (Xcel and Centerpoint) to be more willing to help the City of Minneapolis meet its Climate Action Plan goals. The early thought leaders behind the campaign were driven by a vision of Minneapolis having locally-owned renewable power projects that keep wealth circulating though our community with creation of good-paying clean energy jobs. At the time, Xcel Energy was using its monopoly power to make it difficult for us to do local renewable energy (to a greater extent than it is today). The result of our grassroots campaign (an interesting but long story) is that we led Xcel and Centerpoint 3 years ago to form the nations’ first Clean Energy Partnership with a local City Government on the pretext of helping the Minneapolis meet its ambitious climate and energy goals (which eventually included 80% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050).
The Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership spent the bulk of its first year and a half’s worth of work with getting data on energy use & demographics down to the census tract level in order to create targets and set the baselines to measure its eventual success. This was valuable so that the Partnership staff would have the info they need to be confident in guiding how to effectively and wisely spend an increased pool of funds for Clean Energy Partnership efforts such as knowing where the best opportunities are for energy efficiency. However, the Clean Energy Partnership could only go on for so long at its beginning stage before scaling up its promised work on actual reduction in our carbon footprint and fossil fuel dependency. That time has now come given that we have the Clean Energy Franchise Fee Funding plan. Even if what we have before us is not a perfect end-all be-all of a long-term climate plan, it is the plan we have before the City Council right now and would still be a vast improvement from the status quo.Read more
Inclusive Financing for Energy, 100% Renewables, & Equity in Clean Jobs ENDORSED at Minneapolis City-Wide Convention
Delegates at the Minneapolis DFL Convention on July 8th endorsed a resolution calling for political leaders to actively push utilities to adopt Inclusive Financing, a program tool adopted in over 7 states that removes the barrier to cost savings and clean energy for customers regardless of credit score, income and home-ownership status. Also included in this endorsed resolution was 100% clean renewable electricity by 2030 and 100% renewable heating and transportation by 2050, and in favor of reliable & dedicated funding for the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership.
In addition, Convention delegates unanimously endorsed a second resolution calling for workforce development & job training programs in renewable energy & energy efficiency to be accessible to low-income and minority populations and that an equitable portion of the public dollars invested into renewable energy and energy efficiency projects be invested in minority, women and veteran-owned energy contracting businesses.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges presented to the City Council a 2018 Budget proposal that puts nearly $6 Million behind meeting the City’s Climate & Energy Pledges and (in her words) "to ensure we’re not ignoring communities that have faced a disproportionate share of environmental vulnerability” 4 weeks after she released a 2018 City budget overview on August 15th.
At long last, we could finally be seeing a path to unlock millions for clean energy and making cost & energy saving improvements more accessible to Minneapolis residents & businesses.
About half of this near $6 million comes from Mayor Hodges taking the Clean Energy Franchise fee recommendation from the Minneapolis Energy Vision Advisory Committee (EVAC).
EVAC concluded that increasing the City’s natural gas and electricity utility franchise fee by 0.5 percent would be both the most fair and most effective option to create a reliable stream of ongoing funding dedicated to scaling up the work of the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership. In their report, EVAC laid out a roadmap on how the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership can most effectively spend the $2.89 Million in dedicated funding naming proven & reliable initiatives in need of more funding such as the City's Green Business Cost Share Program.
Last week, it became even more imperative for individual city and state governments to take the initiative on climate justice. Already, 248 Mayors of US Cities have signed onto a letter to adopt, honor and uphold the Paris Climate Agreement including Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and yes, Pittsburgh.
But we have to meet Minneapolis Climate Action Plan goals in ways that also advance economic justice and renters rights at the same time. At Community Power’s forum on June 29th, we will ask contenders for Mayor of Minneapolis their plan to create a dedicated source of funds to scale up the work which the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership is doing to carry out that mission.
In an energy efficiency doorknocking project called Our Power, which was the precedent to Community Power and the Minneapolis Energy Options campaign we heard from families in 7 south Minneapolis neighborhoods who have to choose whether to pay their monthly utility bill or pay for medicine. We saw first-hand how the same households who have the most immediate financial incentive significantly reduce their energy consumption and utility bills also have the least amount of access to the currently available programs to be able to do projects like insulation and weather sealing.
Trump administration plans to slash funds for the Low-Income Heating Assistance Program only add to the urgency that we think through how to make energy efficiency more accessible to low-income, low-credit score, and renter households. As we know, it gets cold in Minnesota and not everyone can simply fly to Florida each weekend during the winter.Read more