Our campaign is generating a lot of public interest in the city’s expiring contracts with Xcel and CenterPoint Energy, so much so that the city’s communications department just launched a new website to explain the process!
On Tuesday morning, former Boulder mayor Susan Osborne shared the story of her city’s pursuit of clean, local, affordable energy. It starts years ago with consideration of forming a municipal utility, but it wasn’t brought to a head until Xcel Energy built a failed smart grid “beta” and reneged on an offer to build a nearby wind farm for Boulder’s use. In 2011, the voters of Boulder gave the city approval to pursue municipalization, a multi-year process.
Finance & Commerce – September 17, 2012
Franchise agreements seen as bargaining tool
A pair of expiring land-use agreements between Minneapolis and the state’s largest utilities has opened up a debate over the city’s role in pushing for greater investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The debate centers on a pair of 20-year-old franchise agreements that the city has with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy and are expiring at the end of 2014. The agreements focus on the fees a utility pays to use public rights-of-way, but advocates say they could also be used as a tool to get utilities to invest in city priorities.
“This is the city’s opportunity to see what they can do, and they should push as hard as they can to get as much as they can,” said Ken Bradley, a program director withEnvironment Minnesota.
Environment Minnesota is among the organizations participating in a recently formed group, Minneapolis Energy Options, which is pushing city leaders to seek investments in energy efficiency and renewable power as they work on fresh franchise agreements.
Mayor Rybak was one of the first mayors to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement approved by the Minneapolis City Council, which established a goal to curb greenhouse gas emissions and increase renewable energy. Taking the agreement one step further, the city of Minneapolis also established its own, more ambitious goal of a 30 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 (based on 2006 levels).
Xcel Energy and Centerpoint Energy are responsible for roughly two-thirds of our city’s greenhouse gas emissions. They have made some progress, yet last year the carbon intensity of Xcel Energy’s electricity increased and the city has no guarantee from either utility to meet the city’s greenhouse gas targets. Neither utility has shown strong support for local renewable energy programs and Xcel proposed eliminating the popular Solar Rewards Program.
In the next few years both Xcel Energy’s and Centerpoint Energy’s franchise agreements with the city of Minneapolis are coming up for renewal. These 20-year contracts give each utility a monopoly over electricity and gas service, respectively, and are common to most cities.
This pending expiration of contracts makes this the perfect opportunity to align Minneapolis’ goals to reduce emissions; increase local, renewable energy; and reduce energy usage with these long-term agreements. Minneapolis has three options: