On Tuesday April 29th, the Public Utilities Commission held a hearing on Minneapolis’ ambitious energy goals and how Xcel Energy and Centerpoint Energy are responding. The City of Minneapolis has issued a press release on the hearing that has additional background information, which can be read here. Excitingly, the city and both utilities confirmed formal recognition of that commitment in front of the PUC.
Chris Clark from Xcel Energy expressed excitement about opportunities for energy efficiency and accelerated renewable energy and is looking forward to working with those who are bringing new ideas. Jeff Daughtery from Centerpoint also stated that “our interests are aligned with the city” and wants to partner collaboratively.
From the Minneapolis City Council, Health Environment & Community Engagement committee chair Cam Gordon said “We don’t think the status quo is an option”, and expressed “great hope for this clean energy partnership.” He disclosed that Xcel Energy officials are already having monthly meetings with City Council members and staff, who will have a meeting with CenterPoint this week.
After Cam Gordon spoke, the Center for Energy and Environment presented an updated expanded version of their energy pathways report slideshow that they presented to the Minneapolis City Council back in February.
The elephant in the room was finally called out in the second half the hearing. One commissioner asked whether there are state statutes that will be roadblocks to the city meeting its energy goals, in particular. Cam Gordon responded that it is difficult for the city to do a lot of innovative power supply arrangements in regard to owning, managing and generating some of our local renewable energy in the current climate and that such popular projects should not be too much to ask for. We as a campaign would like the City of Minneapolis to answer “yes!” to rural and tribal communities who want to develop wind farms to provide competitively priced electricity to Minneapolis.
PUC Commissioner Beverly Heydinger made it clear that if there were state statute impediments in the way, “We (the PUC) at least need to know about it." Though Beverly Heydinger did not make promises they will be able to remove all obstacles, she did note that the times have changed and we will inevitably have to reconsider old rules. For this purpose Beverly Heydinger invited the city to actively participate in the PUC dockets. For the city to be successful, we have to keep an extended presence in PUC deliberations. So before us now is a test: How quickly and effectively can Minneapolis and the communities that make it up intervene on dockets and what resources will be made available to represent the city's interests at the PUC? Cam Gordon acknowledged the council has been pushed and pulled by residents and businesses and that the city is only able to move forward because of the citizens. This highlights the need for a city utility partnership that actively includes citizen input and guidance because that will keep the partnership dynamic as opposed to bureaucratic.