This past April Fool’s day, Community Power and Partners performed a street theater of a press conference. We drew attention toward Xcel Energy intending to sink $650 million ratepayer dollars into purchasing a Mankato natural gas plant. Mr. Monopoly in costume, spoke for Xcel and gave a prepared statement to the public and press: “We are overanxious to be able to give this vision and long-term debt with the Minnesota public." While the press conference was of course satirical, the script did involve actual direct quotes from Xcel CEO Ben Fowke, Xcel Govt Affairs Lobbyist Rick Evans, and recent Xcel Regulatory Consultant James Albers.
Click Image above for the final cut of the video !
Watch the full You Tube version of the video or the full Livestream or the of our press conference performance outside Xcel Headquarters April 1st, or read the full transcript below. There's also the livestream here from a more front-facing angle: http://bit.ly/2OF0KJV
Comments to the MN Public Utilities Commission on the Mankato Natural gas plant proposal will close on April 30th. It was preceded by numerous comments opposing the purchase and news coverage from Frank Jossi of Midwest Energy News.
The following day on April 2nd, Xcel Energy officials also stated their case for the Mankato Gas Plant acquisition (see full quote on blogpost) during an event where the public was invited to give feedback and questions to Xcel on its on its to-be-released long-term energy plan.
Click below for the Full Transcript !Read more
Late last year, Community Power's submitted comments to state regulators that Xcel’s stakeholder engagement sessions should not be held exclusively during work hours on a weekdays in order to be more accessible to a wider range of interested individuals.
Likely in response to this comment, Xcel Energy held a "non-technical public informational session the evening of Tuesday April 2nd at the Wilder Center in Saint Paul. (See Facebook Event Page) Xcel Intended for the event to be held in January but it was postponed twice due to unfortunate timing with weather circumstances.
On the website they created for the event, Xcel stated the company would provide an introduction to their 15-year energy plan for Minnesota and “give members of the public an opportunity to provide feedback and learn how to get involved on an ongoing basis”.
Xcel is required by the state to come up with a 15-year energy plan that looks at a wide range of scenarios of ways how they can meet customers’ energy needs for the years 2019-2034. As an organization, we want to ensure the scenarios Xcel studies includes giving a fair consideration for distributed renewable energy generation as well as questioning whether a utility with a 100% carbon free goal should be buying new natural gas plants .
The open house event ended up being great opportunity to ask Xcel questions about its plans for the future with a good attendance from community members eager to share what they would like to see.
Photo of the years Xcel currently plans to retire a number of their thermal baseload plants.
To learn more about what Xcel’s Resource Plan is, what is at stake, why it matters and what we deserve from Xcel, click here.
To read some highlights on what we heard from Xcel on April 2nd, click below.
In 2018 in coalition and in community, we have:
- Ensured $2-3 million in equitable climate funding from the City of Minneapolis each year;
- Advanced inclusive energy financing into a stakeholder-led study process;
- Defeated a “blank check” for monopoly utility’s nuclear plants;
- Signed up 10 Twin Cities residents and 15 southern Minnesota organizations and households for cooperatively-owned community solar
Mr. Monopoly asking for signatures at the Capitol
for his Blank Check for Nuclear
These successes took time to cultivate, but we know this is urgent but patient, long-haul work...
Together, these wins were fought for by influencing city decision-makers, adding community voices to Xcel’s 15-year energy plan, intervening in key Public Utilities Commission decisions that affect the viability of true energy democracy and climate action, and building a culture of care, trust, and solidarity.
Next year, we plan to continue the work with staff, volunteers, and coalition partners:
- Launching work in St. Paul to ensure a similar focus on equity in the city’s Climate Action Plan and to develop low-income accessible community solar on several neighborhood schools
- Working with elected officials and city staff to expand funding for equitable climate work locally
- Collaborating with networks of community organizations to deepen community savings and knowledge through access to energy efficiency
- Pushing inclusive energy financing from a feasibility study to a program that allows low-income and low-credit residents to access lower energy bills through clean and efficient energy.
Full house at Energy Comedy Night in Minneapolis, covering Xcel's plans for our next 15 years of energy in Minnesota
On behalf of the Community Power Board & Staff: THANK YOU for your support - looking forward to tackling new challenges in this new year. You can sustain this work here, or sign up to get on the mailing list for next events, volunteer opportunities, and calls to action by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back in July 2016, the MN Pubic Utilities Commission reduced the rates which Community Solar Garden subscribers would be compensated but not by as much as Xcel was requesting. The PUC's decision was to switch the methodology for determining compensation for CSG subscribers to the Value of Solar (VOS).
This change made it more difficult for future Community Solar Project to become accessible and equitable in Community Power’s terms without a residential adder to the credits.
Finally after 2 years, the MN Public Utilities Commission finally issued a decision about a residential adder on October 11th, 2018
They gave a 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour boost to subscribers of Community Solar projects started in 2019 or 2020.
While this adder was certainly better than nothing, it was not significant enough to make residential community solar projects easily pencil. Reason is because the "Value of Solar" changes each year and Xcel’s proposed 2019 revision to the value of solar would reduce compensation to residential Community Solar Gardens by almost that same amount 1.5 cent amount.
The value of solar is a complex calculation which Xcel Energy made based on methodology which the PUC itself approved. This makes a good case for the Value of Solar methodology to come under review so that the utility will not be allowed to pay too little for valuable solar energy.
On November 27th, 2018 Community Power manifested an innovative event idea by partnering with the Theater of Public Policy for an Energy Comedy Night. We had been planning to hold a public event about generating community input into Xcel Energy’s 15-year integrated resource plan (IRP) their statement of how they plan to meet customer energy needs over the next 15 years.
We figured adding in a cast of improv comedians from the Theater of Public Policy would add some entertainment value to an event about utility planning. The idea proved to be an overall success as we got robust attendance.
The suspense about how to draw comedy out of the IRP process and big institutional questions regarding energy was part of the event’s appeal.
XCEL STAKEHOLDER SESSIONS ORIGINALLY MOTIVATED THE EVENT
Xcel Energy will release their IRP draft on July 1st of 2019. A final version of the IPR will have to get approved by the MN Public Utilities Commission. Power plants representing 65% of Xcel’s generation in Minnesota are scheduled to retire in the 15 years. The mix of energy resources Xcel decides to replaces this generation capacity with has crucial implications for Minnesota meeting its Climate and Clean Energy goals. That makes Xcel’s next IRP be considered the “SuperBowl of IRPs”.