Minneapolis Mulls Options

Finance & Commerce – September 17, 2012

Franchise agreements seen as bargaining tool

A pair of expiring land-use agreements between Minneapolis and the state’s largest utilities has opened up a debate over the city’s role in pushing for greater investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The debate centers on a pair of 20-year-old franchise agreements that the city has with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy and are expiring at the end of 2014.  The agreements focus on the fees a utility pays to use public rights-of-way, but advocates say they could also be used as a tool to get utilities to invest in city priorities.

“This is the city’s opportunity to see what they can do, and they should push as hard as they can to get as much as they can,” said Ken Bradley, a program director withEnvironment Minnesota.

Environment Minnesota is among the organizations participating in a recently formed group, Minneapolis Energy Options, which is pushing city leaders to seek investments in energy efficiency and renewable power as they work on fresh franchise agreements.

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Boulder Sought Energy Options, Just Like Minneapolis

Taking Control of Our Energy Future

Mayor Rybak was one of the first mayors to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement approved by the Minneapolis City Council, which established a goal to curb greenhouse gas emissions and increase renewable energy. Taking the agreement one step further, the city of Minneapolis also established its own, more ambitious goal of a 30 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 (based on 2006 levels).

Xcel Energy and Centerpoint Energy are responsible for roughly two-thirds of our city’s greenhouse gas emissions. They have made some progress, yet last year the carbon intensity of Xcel Energy’s electricity increased and the city has no guarantee from either utility to meet the city’s greenhouse gas targets. Neither utility has shown strong support for local renewable energy programs and Xcel proposed eliminating the popular Solar Rewards Program.

In the next few years both Xcel Energy’s and Centerpoint Energy’s franchise agreements with the city of Minneapolis are coming up for renewal. These 20-year contracts give each utility a monopoly over electricity and gas service, respectively, and are common to most cities.

This pending expiration of contracts makes this the perfect opportunity to align Minneapolis’ goals to reduce emissions; increase local, renewable energy; and reduce energy usage with these long-term agreements. Minneapolis has three options:

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Boulder’s Mayor Coming to Minneapolis to Discuss Energy Options!

In November 2011, the citizens of Boulder, CO, voted to allow the city to proceed with a long and thoughtful process toward municipalizing their electric utility.  On Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 8:00 AM, join Minneapolis Energy Options and Boulder, Colorado, (former) Mayor Susan Osborne and Institute for Local Self-Reliance Policy Senior Researcher John Farrell to learn more about Boulder’s shift toward clean, local energy and what’s happening in Minneapolis!

RSVP today to save your seat for “Green Ideas & Ham” with Susan Osborne!

Minneapolis was one of the first cities to sign the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which established ambitious goals to cut emissions and increase renewable energy. More than forty other cities across Minnesota have signed the agreement as well. The city has a goal of cutting its global warming emissions 30% by 2025.

The city gets most of its energy through Xcel Energy and Centerpoint Energy, and while these utilities have made some progress, Xcel’s carbon emissions actually increased last year. If Minneapolis is going to meet its global warming reduction goals, Xcel and Centerpoint will need to sharply reduce their emissions and encourage clean energy programs in the city. But neither utility has shown strong support for local renewable energy programs and Xcel even proposed eliminating the popular Solar Rewards Program. As the franchise agreements between the city and Xcel and Centerpoint are coming up for renewal, it’s time to find more ways to drive clean, affordable energy in Minneapolis.

Former Boulder mayor Susan Osborne will explain how Boulder ended up with a ballot measure to form a municipal utility and why they were motivated to change their energy options.

As always, the event costs $15 for each attendee. That includes a $5 donation to event host Environment Minnesota, and $10 to the Red Stag Supperclub. Doors open at 7:30 and the tasty breakfast buffet begins at 7:45.

Click here to RSVP and donate $5 to Environment Minnesota ahead of time. 

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August Update

It’s Summer 2012 and the Minneapolis Energy Options team has been at work finding friends and partners who care about Minneapolis’s energy future. As the City of Lakes enters the August lull, we’d like to take a minute to you on some changes in our energy scene.

Recently, our electric utility (Xcel Energy) proposed cutting rebate monies for the installation of solar panels in Minneapolis. This isn’t the first time Xcel tried to cut solar rebates. Last summer, Xcel proposed cuts to a rebate program for Minnesota-made solar panels, a program that supports solar manufacturers in the state like tenKsolar in Bloomington, and Silicon Energy in Mountain Iron.

Fortunately, a lot of organizations are working with Xcel and state leaders to try and preserve programs that support local clean energy generation.   And there are some great places around the country like Long Island or San Antonio that are keeping their local solar programs strong!  More detail to come in a future update!

We are always looking for allies to help further affordable and clean energy in our city.  Please tell your friends and neighbors so they can learn more about our city’s energy options!