Three bills that would greatly help implementation of the Minneapolis Energy Pathways Study recommendations are set to have a state legislative hearing in the Energy Policy Committee. The hearing will take place on Monday March 17th at 12:00 PM in Room 10 of the State Office Building across the street from the capitol. We encourage supporters to be present during the hearing both to make a positive visual impression to the legislators and because Committee Chair Representative Melissa Hortman might ask for public testimony about the proposed legislation. Any of these three pro-local control bills has to win the committee vote in order to have a chance at becoming law this year.
For pathway #1 (Enhanced Franchise Agreement) the bill H.F. 1450/ S.F. 1490 would empower pathway #1 because it would open up franchise agreements to be inclusive of a city’s energy efficiency, renewable energy and local jobs goals rather than the scope be restricted to a narrow focus on public right of way. MN state statute 216 B.36 currently imposes and limits on the scope of what can be included in a franchise agreement.
For pathway #2 (City-Utility Partnership) the bill H.F. 1450/ S.F. 1490 would provide cities more explicit legal authority to create a formal collaborative structure with utilities, ratepayers and the community to meet mutual environmental and jobs goals. The legislation will also require a utility to submit quarterly system reliability reports.
These legislative goals of H.F. 1450/ S.F. 1490 (as well as S.F. 911/ H.F. 945 ) already have the official backing of the City of Minneapolis as shown on page 9 of its 2014 state legislative agenda under the section “utility franchise”. It is the position of city staff in accordance with the Energy Pathways Study that getting H.F. 1450/ S.F. 1490 into state law would be helpful but not required for the formation of a city-utility partnership.
For Pathway #3 (Community Choice Aggregation) the bill S. F. 2405 would require the commissioner of commerce to study and report back in regard to how Community Choice Aggregation energy would help Minnesota cities accelerate progress toward meeting climate and energy goals. The negotiating power enabled by Community Choice Aggregation has helped several cities across the Midwest like Cincinnati make bulk purchases of their energy from 100% renewable sources while decreasing costs to consumers.
For Pathway #4 (Municipal Utility) the bill S.F. 911/ H.F. 945 would strike "poison pill" language in current state law 216 B 45 that requires municipalities to pay their previous utility loss of revenue for an indeterminate period (some say a decade after) becoming a public provider of energy unnecessarily adding costs. S.F. 911/ H.F. 945 strikes a fair balance between allowing utilities full cost recovery while enabling cities to further explore city ownership to advance local, clean and equitable energy goals.
This specific trio of legislation to empower Minnesota municipalities to expedite a transition to clean energy is of profound strategic opportunity for our future. Local city governments like Minneapolis are our great white hope where political accomplishments to get serious about tackling climate change are most realistic in the immediate term. Ability to implement the the recommendations of the Energy Pathways Study are in turn the crux of Minneapolis' 2013 Climate Action Plan because 2/3 of the city's climate footprint comes from electricity and natural gas use in buildings.