We need leadership on energy

Now is the time for our City Council to show leadership that ensures we get cleaner, more affordable, more reliable and more local energy in Minneapolis.

Thanks to the Minneapolis Energy Options campaign, energy is front and center in Minneapolis, and one of the issues I hear about most frequently while door knocking nearly every day in Ward 10. Most people I talk to, and a majority of people who attended an Aug. 1 public hearing at City Hall, have concerns about municipilization of utilities. Most also agree that we need to ensure Minneapolis energy is financially and environmentally sustainable.

In Minnesota, cities have little say over their energy agreements. Other states, like Illinois, allow consumers to purchase energy in a competitive market, but here in Minneapolis, Xcel and CenterPoint — two private companies —  are monopoly providers. Great progress has been made over the past month, with commitments from both CenterPoint and Xcel to produce more renewable energy and help Minneapolis residents and businesses increase energy efficiency. However, these commitments have no teeth.

Shifting production to more renewable sources has huge environmental benefits. From 2006-2010, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fell 13.4 percent and nearly half of this reduction was the result of Xcel Energy using cleaner sources to produce electricity for the grid. Given the unanswered questions and barriers to municipilization, I do not support putting this question on this year’s ballot. To ensure we continue to make progress together toward critical GHG reductions, the Minneapolis City Council should instead adopt a strong policy that does three things.

First, the City Council should articulate an energy vision with specific goals for the Energy Pathways study that is underway and due out in January.

That study will provide the information the City Council needs to make critical decisions in 2014 and I will work, along with my colleagues, to ensure that these goals are incorporated into our next franchise agreement. 

Second, the City Council should make energy policy a priority on next year’s legislative agenda. Major progress was made on energy last year with leadership by DFL legislators and I will draw on my relationships with DFL leaders to ensure our state policies allow more flexibility for cities across Minnesota to reach GHG reduction targets while ensuring that energy is affordable and reliable.

Third, the City Council should commit to reaching a franchise agreement by early next summer so if we can’t reach a mutual agreement that meets the goals of our City’s energy vision we have time to explore other options before our franchise agreements expire.

This is the time for real leadership on energy issues.  Energy has finally become a major topic in our public conversation, and that’s a good thing.

The utilities have expressed more willingness to partner with the City to meet our energy goals than ever before.  And next year – with the completion of the Energy Pathways Study, the next legislative session, and the negotiation of our next franchise agreements – is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put our city on the path to a better energy future. I have the policy expertise, demonstrated ability to bring diverse opinions together and commitment to sustainable solutions to make the most of this opportunity and to get the best deal – financially and for our environmental future – for the City of Minneapolis.

Lisa Bender
DFL-endorsed candidate for Ward 10 Council seat