At the Tuesday November 10th Energy Vision Advisory Committee (EVAC) meeting, an official from Centerpoint said that "Bad landlords are a real problem, but it is something that is somewhat outside the scope of the Clean Energy Partnership." He later added that it that falls more to the regulatory enforcement of the city or to the State.
Those words clearly are not partnership thinking, and they seem to miss a core point of the problem the Partnership was intended to solve - how to combine the regulatory powers of the city, the programmatic abilities of the community, and the networks and vision of Minneapolis communities to solve real-world energy problems facing people in Minneapolis.
EVALUATING THE SCOPE OF THE PARTNERSHIP
Let’s take a look at the big picture on what the Clean Energy Partnership is intended to achieve so we can push back against any proposed reductions in the Partnership’s scope.
The definition statement on the Clean Energy Partnership’s own webpage http://mplscleanenergypartnership.org/about/) explicitly says: "The Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership (CEP) is a new approach that partners the City of Minneapolis in a unique way with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy, its electric and gas utilities, to help the City reach its Climate Action Plan and Energy Vision for 2040 goals."
If we look at the Energy Vision for 2040 (see https://cleanenergypartnership.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/mpls-energy-vision-9-3-13.pdf) it explicitly says:
"In 2040, Minneapolis’s energy system will provide reliable, affordable, local and clean energy services for Minneapolis homes, businesses, and institutions: sustaining the city’s economy and environment and contributing to a more socially just community."
Providing reliable, affordable and clean energy services and contributing to "a more socially just community" means, among other things, that all energy users have access to affordable energy that allows them to stay healthy in their homes. Since the Partnership is clearly in service of this vision, the Clean Energy Partnership must help tenants who live in poorly maintained housing secure affordable home energy and adequate building maintenance to ensure home comfort. So bad landlords are definitely in the scope, at least as it refers to justice on energy issues.
At the city budget public hearing last December 10th, the dozens of community members who spoke in favor of restoring full funding for the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership also spoke on behalf of racial equity & economic justice at the same time. It is easy to make the case that taking action on renter energy issues is where the rubber hits the road as far as applying that promise of equity.
But having made that point, what pro-active solutions can we propose?
EQUITABLE ACCESS TO ENERGY DATA PROVIDES LEVERAGE
When the landlord/ building owners are the only ones who have access to the energy audit reports, it means the tenants are left without the energy data they need to hold their landlords accountable in court if the building performance is indeed below standards. While tenants could call 311 for City Housing inspectors, the inspectors need to do more than just send a report to the same landlord who is already not addressing the problem to begin with. Can we ask the utilities or CEE to make energy audit reports accessible to tenants so that they could hold landlords accountable when warranted?
ENSURE ENERGY EFFICIENCY STANDARDS ARE IN RENTAL HOUSING CODE
While many city inspectors skilled at checking for certain code violations, have sadly too little focus or training on energy efficiency beyond that. As a result, so many problem problem landlords apparently get away with atrocities resulting in disturbing energy waste, while so many conscientious landlords get micromanaged about comparatively minor matters like tree-trimming and yard issues. Let's also require energy audits in multifamily buildings.
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