An energy switch, waiting to be flipped

Originally published in the Star Tribune, 5/23/12:

As we spoke to legislators and activists roaming the halls of the State Capitol this past legislative session, it became increasingly clear that Xcel Energy and other utilities are calling the shots for our energy future.

They decide which bills will be heard and, ultimately, which will be passed into law. Not coincidentally, a champion of clean, local energy was denied a seat on the Public Utilities Commission by the Legislature.

Minnesota spends more than $20 billion a year on energy — primarily importing polluting fossil fuels — and the state’s utilities typically lobby against decreasing our dependency. This hampers our economy and harms our environment.

Fortunately, cities don’t have to rely on the Legislature to stand up for more-efficient and cleaner energy use.

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Ken Bradley is director of Environment Minnesota. John Farrell is senior researcher specializing in energy policy for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Both are members of the Minneapolis Energy Option coalition.

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Should Minneapolis keep its energy options open?

Facts:

  1. Minneapolis is dependent mostly on coal, nuclear, and gas for its energy.
  2. It’s energy use is inefficient because our suppliers have a financial interest in selling more energy.
  3. Our energy is provided by two corporate energy monopolies, Xcel Energy (electric) and Centerpoint Energy (gas), whose first priority is their shareholders.
  4. Our 20-year contracts with these two utilities will expire in the next three years.
  5. 20 years is a long time.

Goals:

  1. To use our energy dollars to pay for clean, local, and renewable energy instead of importing polluting energy.
  2. To make great strides to reduce energy use through conservation and efficiency.
  3. To reduce energy costs while increasing local economic development.

We support:

  1. The City of Minneapolis in keeping its options open rather than signing a long-term agreement with the same energy providers.
  2. City Council in creating a ballot initiative that would allow voters (in 2013) to enable our city council members and mayor to research, explore, and pursue the option of municipalizing our energy utilities to create a more reliable, affordable and clean local energy system.
  3. Advancing energy efficiency, clean energy, community ownership, and local economic development through a more democratic energy system.


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