Three state legislative bills that would greatly help implementation of the Minneapolis Energy Pathways Study recommendations are set to have a March 17th hearing in the Energy Policy Committee. The Monday hearing will begin at 12:00 PM in Room 10 of the State Office Building across the street from the capitol. Community members are encouraged to attend the hearing both to provide a positive visual presence of support for the legislators and because Committee Chair Representative Melissa Hortman might ask for public testimony about the proposed legislation. Any of these three pro-local control bills has to win the vote of the committee in order to have a chance at becoming law this year.
To help Energy Pathway #1 (Enhanced Franchise Agreement) H.F. 1450/ S.F. 1490 would open up franchise agreements to be inclusive of a city’s energy efficiency, renewable energy, equity and local jobs goals rather than the scope be restricted to a narrow focus on public right of way and fees. MN state statute 216 B.36 currently imposes and limits on the scope of what can be included in a franchise agreement.
To help Energy Pathway #2 (City-Utility Partnership) H.F. 1450/ S.F. 1490 would provide cities more explicit legal authority to create a formal collaborative structure with utilities, ratepayers and the community to meet mutual environmental and jobs goals. The legislation will also require a utility to submit quarterly system reliability reports.
These legislative goals of H.F. 1450/ S.F. 1490 (as well as S.F. 911/ H.F. 945 ) already have the official backing of the City of Minneapolis as shown on page 9 of its 2014 state legislative agenda under the section “utility franchise”. It is the position of city staff in accordance with the Energy Pathways Study that getting H.F. 1450/ S.F. 1490 into state law would be helpful but not required for the anticipated formation of a city-utility partnership.
To help Energy Pathway #3 (Community Choice Aggregation) the bill S. F. 2405 would require the commissioner of commerce to study and report back in regard to how Community Choice Aggregation energy would help Minnesota cities accelerate progress toward meeting climate and energy goals. The negotiating power enabled by Community Choice Aggregation has helped several cities across the Midwest like Cincinnati make bulk purchases of their energy from 100% renewable sources while decreasing costs to consumers.
To help Energy Pathway #4 (Municipal Utility) the bill S.F. 911/ H.F. 945 would strike “poison-pill” language in current state law 216 B 45 that requires municipalities to pay their previous utility loss of revenue for an indeterminate period (some say a decade) after becoming a public provider of energy which unnecessarily inflates costs. Consumers who switch phone companies face a similar dilemma where they have to pay compensation for the loss of future revenues to a phone company whose service they no longer use. S.F. 911/ H.F. 945 strikes a fair balance between allowing utilities full cost recovery while enabling cities to further explore city ownership to advance local, clean and equitable energy goals.
This trio of legislation to empower Minnesota municipalities with additional avenues to expedite a transition to clean energy contains a profound strategic opportunity for our future. Large city governments like Minneapolis are our great white hope for near-term political accomplishments on tackling climate change, given the intransigence and obstruction in the federal congress. Ability to effectively implement the the recommendations of the Energy Pathways Study is in turn the crux of Minneapolis’ 2013 Climate Action Plan because 2/3 of the city’s climate footprint comes from electricity and natural gas use in buildings.