Last week, it became even more imperative for individual city and state governments to take the initiative on climate justice. Already, 248 Mayors of US Cities have signed onto a letter to adopt, honor and uphold the Paris Climate Agreement including Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and yes, Pittsburgh.
But we have to meet Minneapolis Climate Action Plan goals in ways that also advance economic justice and renters rights at the same time. At Community Power’s forum on June 29th, we will ask contenders for Mayor of Minneapolis their plan to create a dedicated source of funds to scale up the work which the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership is doing to carry out that mission.
In an energy efficiency doorknocking project called Our Power, which was the precedent to Community Power and the Minneapolis Energy Options campaign we heard from families in 7 south Minneapolis neighborhoods who have to choose whether to pay their monthly utility bill or pay for medicine. We saw first-hand how the same households who have the most immediate financial incentive significantly reduce their energy consumption and utility bills also have the least amount of access to the currently available programs to be able to do projects like insulation and weather sealing.
Trump administration plans to slash funds for the Low-Income Heating Assistance Program only add to the urgency that we think through how to make energy efficiency more accessible to low-income, low-credit score, and renter households. As we know, it gets cold in Minnesota and not everyone can simply fly to Florida each weekend during the winter.
The currently available home energy efficiency programs give households a limited choice between either paying the upfront price of improvements all at once, or taking out a loan for whoever has a high enough credit score to qualify. The up-front cost barrier this limited choice creates is the main reason why only 21% of households (according to CEE) who do a Home Energy Squad visit actually follow through with implementing recommendations from the energy auditors.
In addition, a number renters live in leaky and drafty housing while their landlords, (who do not pay the energy utility bill), are the only ones authorized to do building energy improvements. This split incentive is a big reason why only 0.5% of Minneapolis households per year are participating in energy efficiency programs (according to Clean Energy Partnership Annual Report) when we need 7% participation per year in order to be on track to meet Minneapolis Climate Action plan goals.
Community Power is mobilizing to make inclusive financing an available option so that low credit score, or low income are no longer barriers to home efficiency improvements and saving $ on energy. We can also use use the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership as a strategic vehicle to advance utility justice for renters who live in drafty housing and pay disproportionately high energy bills.
From the beginning, Community Power has been about Locally Owned Renewable Power that builds wealth for communities rather than distant energy monopolies. It involves Community Solar that provides a pathway out of energy poverty and Implementing 100% Renewable Energy across Minneapolis by 2050 which includes anaerobic digestion geothermal district heating & renewable power heat pumps. In addition we have to draw attention to Equitable & Accessible Workforce Development so we can grow the clean energy economy in ways that close Minnesota’s highest-in-the-nation racial employment gap.
On Thursday, June 29th, Community Power will be at the forefront of Minneapolis stepping up to take leadership as we host our Mayoral Candidate Forum on Climate Resilience & Energy Access.
Robust attendance to the forum will help send a message to the Minneapolis Mayoral candidates that their constituents are paying attention and will hold them accountable to make significant progress driving down energy costs by advancing local clean power.
As a sneak preview of ideas at the forum, check out this list of policies and action steps cities & states can take in the absence of federal support for acting on climate.