Minneapolis can choose a better energy future, and DFL convention is key

This year Minneapolis has a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We can continue to import polluting energy into our community, or we can vote "yes" and choose a better energy future.

This opportunity may rest on what happens at the DFL city convention Saturday when delegates consider whether to put a “yes” vote on the DFL's fall sample ballot, a key to success.

At stake is $450 million per year that Minneapolis spends on electricity and gas services. These 20-year agreements with Xcel Energy and Centerpoint Energy expire in 2014. The Minneapolis Energy Options coalition is working to advance clean, affordable, reliable, and local energy as the city’s agreements expire, by affirming a ballot measure authorizing the city to pursue municipal ownership of energy utilities.

If the utilities won’t respond at the negotiating table, the ballot measure gives the city power to make its own way toward a better energy future. A study of the municipal option in Boulder, Colo., (also an Xcel customer) indicates they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half, at similar or lower electric rates and with higher reliability.

Seriously exploring the challenges and benefits of publicly owned energy utilities will improve Minneapolis' position in contract negotiations, even if the city decides not to move ahead with municipalization.

As the DFL delegates are making important decisions for our city on Saturday, it should be noted that Minneapolis Energy Options’ focus on clean, affordable, reliable, and local energy aligns perfectly with the DFL action agenda and party platform. It’s also good policy. 

The City of Lakes could sign franchise agreements with its two big utilities, their polluting power plants and their shareholders for another 20 years. They would be happy to oblige. But the world is changing, and I hope that the city (and DFL delegates) will keep our options open.

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