My Personal Comments on the Proposed Inclusive Financing Pilot Project

(Click Here to view my comments posted on the official website and Click Here for the official Community Power reply comment)

In addressing my comments on Docket #21-377, I’d like the MN Public Utilities Commissioners to hear an appreciation for Tariff-Based Inclusive Financing (abbreviated as TBIF) as a rare and valuable path for us to act on climate in a way that doubles as economic and housing justice. I have talked with people in the community and collected signatures in favor of Inclusive Financing (coupled with an ask for workforce development) starting on Earth Day of 2016 for nearly 4 years until COVID-19 put a hiatus on in-person events. There is a reason why I found this to be a very refreshing conversation to have at community events with friends, acquaintances and new people. I’d like the commissioners to hear first-hand just how liberating it is to be able to pitch support for a pro-climate justice & pro-environment policy innovation that does not ask those of us struggling to get by to pay just a bit extra for something but instead has the power to reduce the marginal cost of living. The petition resulted in well over 1000 petition signatures being delivered to the Energy Vision Advisory Committee and the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership Board in 2021. 

 

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John Oliver Explains Electric Utilities with Humor

John Oliver explains electric utilities, why they're charging you so much, and why they hate solar

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The Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership Board has its First Meeting of 2022, Notes on the Discussion Between the City and both Utilities

The first Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership Board meeting of 2022 and its first meeting with City Councilmembers Aisha Chughtai and Lisa Goodman on the board took place virtually on Tuesday April 26th. It was not in person as expected due to continued COVID risk but one attendee noted that 38 community members listened in by phone.

The board meeting presentation referred to in this blogpost and the Partnership's workplan updates can be found here: https://mplscleanenergypartnership.org/april-26-2022/ 

The primary goal of the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership’s in its Memorandum Of Understanding is for the utilities Xcel and CenterPoint to achieve the City’s Climate & Clean energy goals.

THE NEW CARBON REDUCTION STANDARDS REQUIRE THE CITY TO ACCELERATE THIS WORK IN THE 2020’S

Mayor Frey began the meeting by stating “Reducing Carbon Footprint never has been more important”. The City has now adopted new emissions reduction standards that were established by Mayor Frey’s Pledge last October for “an equitable carbon budget to do our share in limiting Global Warming to 1.5 Celsius”. These “Scientific Fair share goals” will replace the city’s previous emissions targets from its 2013 Climate Plan and will require a much greater need for emissions reductions sooner. The new standards got have unanimous supported from both the Energy Vision Advisory Committee and the Community Environmental Advisory Committee. To illustrate the standards, there is a total carbon budget that we as a city could equitably emit between now and 2050 to do our share. If the city emits at 2019 levels, then we would run out of our carbon budget by 2029. Our current sight decarbonization rates will only bring that date out to 2030.

In sum, this means we need to vastly accelerate our work in the 2020’s. Business as usual will not get us to Net Zero.  

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Looking into Xcel's 21.2% Rate Hike to Protect Market Share

On Monday Oct 25th, the headline hit the newsstands: Xcel Energy proposes a 21.2% rate increase for electricity.

MPR News: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2021/10/26/xcel-seeks-20-electric-rate-increase-over-three-years

Star Tribune: https://www.startribune.com/xcel-would-hike-residential-power-bills-nearly-20-in-new-rate-case/600109892/

That would be a $677.4 million increase in revenue for them, over a three-year period. Just more than half that amount can be expected to go into effect just next year in 2022 although Minnesota utility regulators softened the interim rate increases sought by Xcel on a December 9th ruling. 

In addition, Xcel is also proposing to raise the guaranteed rate of return it collects from customers to pay shareholders from a current 9.06% to 10.2% per year.

Even by that measure, a rate increase in the neighborhood of 20% is still a bit of a shocker and much higher than usual.

Chris Clark, the President of NSP, Xcel's subsidiary that serves Minnesota and the Dakotas is quoted in the Star Tribune "This is a pretty straightforward rate case. It's really focused on the poles and wires part of our business and making the necessary infrastructure investments."

Xcel is claiming the need to build new high voltage transmission (HVT) line infrastructure. 

It is standard behavior for investor-owned utilities to try to leverage their power to distort transmission system planning in their favor. Building new HVT lines makes it easier for a monopoly to keep new renewables under their market share and fend off competition.

Uprooting the structural inequality behind much of the rate hikes at its source would involve the energy democracy of making the build out of our energy system more of a public decision. Specifically, Xcel or any utility needs to be held accountable to maximize its opportunities to deploy new distributed renewable generation on the low-voltage distribution system, that can be consumed within the footprint of each adjacent substation, before building out new million-dollar-per-mile high voltage transmission lines.

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Comment on Xcel's Revised Plan (Oct 15th Deadline) Regarding 2 New Gas Plants

Dear MN Public Utilities Commission (MNPUC),

In regard to any upcoming decisions on Docket 19-368, I am asking the commission to please defer any approval of Xcel's two proposed new methane gas Peaker plants to ensure adequate time for public input and evaluation of clean energy alternatives

First of all, we simply can’t afford to build and invest in NEW fossil fuel burning energy infrastructure during a climate crisis in which just this summer the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) issued a “Code Red” for humanity. (https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-58130705) Xcel Energy, however, is planning to do just that by adding two new methane gas Peaker plants (one each in Lyon County in southwestern Minnesota and another near Fargo North Dakota). Xcel is proposing both to supply electricity to Minnesotans despite at least three clear alternative 15-year energy plans (proposed by intervenors to this docket) that involve no new gas plants. Xcel has stated commitment to carbon reduction goals (a carbon-free electricity system by 2050) that are laudable in comparison to the low bar set by so many other electric utilities. However, it is well known that fossil methane gas power does not offer much net short-term greenhouse gas impact savings from coal because of difficult-to-prevent fugitive methane releases during the whole life cycle process, and because methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.  

The typical lifetime for such a power plant is 30 years but can be as much as 50. So therefore, building this new infrastructure would lock us into decades of more dependency on fossil methane gas, which poses risks to reliability and ratepayers, not just our climate. During the February 2021 storm, gas plants actually experienced the absolute highest outage rate due to equipment failures or fuel supply disruptions. (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/02/19/climate/texas-storm-power-generation-charts.html) Also utilities pass along the costs of volatile spikes in fossil gas prices directly onto customers. (https://www.oxfordenergy.org/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/NG_60.pdf)

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