Minneapolis Energy Options

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The Minneapolis Energy Options Coalition began in 2011 with a vision of using the $450 million energy dollars Minneapolis pays each year on our utility bills to create a clean energy economy where the wealth circulates withing the community. The incumbent utilities were abusing their monopoly power to put up barriers to local and community owned renewable energy.

 

The expiration of Minneapolis' utility franchise agreements at the end of 2014 is the reason why Minneapolis Energy Options launched when it did.

 

State legislation and Xcel's lobbying presence narrow the scope of the energy options Minneapolis can take. 

 

What we did have was the option to campaign for a City ballot initiative that would authoritize formation of a city-owned utility as a lever to achieve clean energy wins, inspired by Boulder, Colorado.

 

There was an abundance of talking points for how municipal power is superior in theory.

 

The primary motive for the Minneapolis Energy Options Campaign was building up leverage for the city's upcoming utility franchice negotiations because Minneapolis not could meet its climate action plan goals without the cooperation of the utilities responsible for 2/3 of the City's greenhouse gas emissions.  

 

Minneapolis Energy Options paved the way for the City to negotiate a shorter franchise agreement and form a city-utility partnership in 2014. 

 

The Minneapolis Energy Options campaign began in early 2013 with winning endorsements among neighborhood organizations, candidates for local office and sitting councilmembers.

 

Minneapolis Energy Options won strategic victories in mid-2013 by getting the endorsed at the MPLS City DFL convention and by reaching and MOU with Centerpoint Energy. 

 

But then a push poll of city voters plus Xcel's letter letter to its Minneapolis customers instigated opposition to the resolution but also raised the public profile that the city even had a different option.  

 

In the heat of the moment, there were some common misconceptions about Minneapolis Energy Options, such as that it would require the city to municipalize if voters passed it.

 

The Minneapolis Energy Options Campaign had its big day with an August 1st, 2013 public hearing in front of City Council.

 

We had some post public-hearing wins with City Council approving a plan B for Minneapolis Energy Options. 

 

The ballot initiative did not materialize but the campaign continued and evolved into a diffrernt form, renaming itself Community Power.  

 

The moral of the story is that grassroots pressure is essential to Xcel's environmental credentials. 

 

In February 2014, the Minneapolis Energy Pathways Study reccommended forming a city-utility partnership. It brought up the question about the roles of the City versus the State in regard to utility regulation. 

 

We had a successful 2014 campaign to include a community input advisory committee into the city utility partnership and for a shorter franchise agreement. 

 

At the end of 2014, Minneapolis Energy Options made headlines one last time thought our brief but successful campaign to save the new City Utility Partnership from budget cuts before its first meeting.

 

We emphasized that the City-Utility Partnership has the potential to transform energy management for Minneapolis energy consumers enough to meet very aggressive greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets in the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan and produce very significant savings to Minneapolis residents and businesses. These benefits could amount to tens of millions of dollars per year through energy efficiency alone. 

 

Transitioning to our role as Community Power as the Clean Energy Partnership begins in early 2015, we proposed 9 actions item to the City for the first two years of the City-Utility partnership.

1 Commercial Building Energy Challenge

2 Residential Energy Efficiency outreach

3 A Rental and Multi-Family unit Energy Efficiency program  

4 LED Streetlight conversions

5 Affordable Community Solar 

6 Developing On-Bill Financing

7 Buying Rural Renewable Energy 

8 Incentives for Green New Buildings 

9 Residential Energy Efficiency Bench-marking 

 

Individual big cities currently provide the greatest political hope for bold breakthroughs and visionary work on climate policies within the United States. Among these big cities, Minneapolis is the first to form a clean energy partnership with its utilities. If successful, the Minneapolis Clean Energy 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.

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