Community Power originated as the Minneapolis Energy Options Campaign, which led to the formation of Minneapolis’ first-in-the-nation Clean Energy Partnership with its two energy utilities - Xcel Energy (electric) and Centerpoint Energy (gas). The campaign envisioned redirecting the roughly $450 million energy dollars Minneapolis pays each year on utility bills to create an equitable, affordable, and reliable clean energy economy where the wealth circulates within the community. This story is a strong example of how grassroots pressure is essential for monopoly utilities to move on environment and community priorities.
Long before the campaign began in late 2011, this group of educators, organizers, policy and economics wonks, artists, youth, and elders were inspired by visions of local and community-owned renewable power, even as the incumbent utilities continued to use their status as monopolies to put up barriers toward that vision.
Without the cooperation of the utilities whose fuel supply is collectively responsible for 2/3 of the City's greenhouse gas emissions, Minneapolis could not meet its climate action goals...
We learned Minneapolis' 20-year franchise agreements with Xcel and Centerpoint would be expiring at the end of 2014. We saw the upcoming franchise negotiations as leverage for the City to drive a hard bargain with both utilities to meet our vision and Minneapolis Climate Action Plan Goals.
We found out that the only option Minnesota state law provided for us in which to create that leverage was to launch a citywide ballot initiative to authorize formation of a city-owned energy utility. Inspired by the municipalization campaign run residents in Boulder, Colorado (and curious that they shared one of our utility companies, Xcel Energy), we moved ahead with planning and research.
JANUARY - MAY 2013
The Minneapolis Energy Options campaign activated. We won endorsements from neighborhood organizations and candidates for local office, by sharing the benefits and possibility of having the city own and control its power. We asked Minneapolitans to dream - what energy options do we have available to us? Which options do we need?
Minneapolis Energy Options won endorsement at the MPLS City DFL convention and reached a historic agreement with Centerpoint Energy on methane flaring transparency.
The campaign went high profile. Xcel Energy sent a letter to all of its Minneapolis customers outlining its expertise as a service provider and warning against the pitfalls of municipalization. This had the dual effect of raising public awareness about the city’s options for energy, and the opposition also spread misconceptions that the ballot initiative would require rather than merely authorize the city to explore and pursue municipalization 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. While our original intended ballot initiative did not move forward, the City Council did approve a plan B: an "Energy Pathways Study" for Minneapolis.
SEPTEMBER - DECEMBER 2013
We had some reflection time, and continued our series of community education workshops, called the Powerful Conversations. Ultimately, the group decided the work was far from done and renamed ourselves Community Power, transforming from a campaign into an energy democracy organization.
Organizing continued to draw attention to the upcoming findings of the study. The "Minneapolis Energy Pathways Study" was released and Council, Xcel, and Centerpoint took up its recommendation to form a city-utility partnership, and to shorten the utility franchise agreement by half to 10 years, with an option to exit after 4 years with one year's notice.
SPRING - OCTOBER 2014
Now as Community Power, we ran a successful campaign to include a community-advisory group to the Partnership so that the City and utilities would have built-in community input. This 15-member community advisory group was adopted and named the "Energy Vision Advisory Committee." Councilmember Cam Gordon calls on constituents to keep the fire going under decision-makers on this issue.
We led a brief and successful campaign to save the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership from a 50% budget cut before its first meeting.
The Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership board has its first quadrennial meeting. Community Power proposed an agenda of 10 actions items to put into the Partnership’s work plan, which is revised every 2 years.
1 Commercial Building Energy Challenge
2 Community Engagement approach to Residential Energy Efficiency
3 Multi-Family unit Energy Efficiency program
4 LED Streetlight conversions
5 Accessible Community Solar
6 Developing an On-Bill Repayment option
7 Buying Rural Renewable Energy
8 Incentives for Green New Buildings
9 Residential Energy Efficiency Bench-marking
MID-2015 - PRESENT
Community Power has since launched separate ongoing campaigns for our action items that were not agreed to by the utilities, such as inclusive on-bill financing and equitable, accessible Community Solar Gardens.
In 2017, we organized a series of local candidate forums for the 2017 municipal elections and won additional funding for the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership via an increased utility franchise fee.