Include Community Input into the City-Utility Partnership

*** This blogpost is also printed in the June 2014 Edition of the Southside Pride.

 

Right now is a prime window of opportunity for energy sector labor unions, clean energy experts, advocates for low-income residents, businesses owners, building owners, environmental justice advocates, and other energy stakeholders to be asking city hall to include community input into the anticipated city-utility partnership. The City of Minneapolis is currently working to form an innovative, first-in-the-nation Clean Energy Partnership with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy by end of 2014, as recommended by the Energy Pathways Study that the City Council unanimously adopted in March.  

The Partnership will hold both utilities accountable to advancing the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan by marketing, tracking, coordinating, and reporting progress on clean energy activities in the City. If successful, the partnership could set an inspiring new national precedent for how local leadership can influence shareholder-controlled utilities to meet mutual climate, justice, and local economic development goals, leveraging much-needed positive changes in the utility business model.

 

As a result of the grassroots Minneapolis Energy Options campaign last year, Xcel and CenterPoint have both stated strong interest in wanting to partner with the City. But in order for a city-utility partnership to provide Xcel and Centerpoint a thoroughly valuable opportunity to demonstrate that they're serious about collaborating with the City to meet our adopted Energy Vision, the partnership has to be inclusive of deep community participation instead of becoming a closed-off layer of bureaucracy. Page 52 of the Energy Pathways Study suggests providing an “advisory committee of businesses and community leaders” that helps guide and inform the decision makers within the city-utility partnership by vetting all proposed programs, goals and evaluation criteria. This advisory board would keep the partnership dynamic and accountable by suggesting new programs that have strong grassroots support.

 

The advisory committee could be appointed through the City’s open appointments process, and operate like a number of existing City advisory committees. The Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee (CLIC), provides a good model.

 

For some background information, the City of Minneapolis will be negotiating both franchise agreements and partnership agreements with Xcel and Centerpoint at the same time. The reason is because the funding to staff the partnership will come from the franchise fee. The city has laid out a goal to have both the franchise agreements and partnership agreements negotiated and ready to sign by some time in September. This time table gives a couple months of breathing room before the current franchise agreements end on Dec 31.

 

On the 7th of July, the Health, Energy and Community Engagement committee on the Minneapolis City Council will hold an informal receive and file hearing about how the negotiations with the utilities are going. Hopefully the hearing will include some productive discussion where the 6 council members will voice that they have heard constituent support for having community input into the city-utility partnership.

 

As a guide to contact your city council representative visit the website:

http://www.communitypowermn.org/call_your_city_council_member

 

To host or attend a community education event on this issue visit:

http://www.communitypowermn.org/powerconvo

 

 

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