Minneapolis eyes way to push utilities to be greener

Star Tribune | September 23, 2012

Maya Rao

As Minneapolis pushes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly a third by 2025, city leaders are debating what role their franchise agreements with utility companies should play.

The agreements, signed in the early 1990s, give Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy space below or along streets, alleys and other public rights of way in exchange for millions of dollars in franchise fees.

But the city imposes no renewable energy requirements in the contracts. Minnesota law doesn’t allow municipalities to make those conditions in franchise agreements.

City Council members last week voted to create a work group to help determine the city’s future with Xcel and CenterPoint, whose agreements expire at the end of 2014. Officials expect to examine a range of possibilities, including pressing the state to give cities more authority in their utility agreements, reducing the span of agreements to just a couple of years rather than decades and having the city take over providing utilities.

Examining franchise contracts is only one way to meet emissions targets, said Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who chairs the regulatory committee.

“But it’s a big agreement, and it is directly with utility companies, and so, obviously, thinking about those goals, and is there a way to impact them, is going to be on our minds,” she said.

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