Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here: http://secondward.blogspot.com/2006/05/disclaimer.html#links

Friday, July 26, 2013

My Vote on the Opus Development

In yesterday's Zoning and Planning Committee, I voted against the rezoning for the Opus development in Dinkytown, in Ward 3.  I wanted to take the opportunity to share some of what motivated this vote.

First, a little background.  I think we need more density in Minneapolis, especially in our most walkable, bikeable and transit-friendly areas.  Increasing density has many co-benefits: a greater percentage of trips made by foot, bike and transit; less suburban sprawl; more economic vitality; a healthier tax base.  The edges of the University of Minnesota are good places for more density, and the neighborhoods around the U have recognized this.  Marcy Holmes and Prospect Park have been especially strategic about supporting density in the parts of their neighborhoods closest to the U.  This is why I have supported many, many developments in the Second Ward that have substantially increased density - after downtown, Ward 2 saw the most growth in housing units in the decade between 2000 and 2010.  That growth trend is continuing, and it's a really good thing.

But it's also important to recognize that Dinkytown is something special.  Like the Cedar Avenue corridor on the West Bank, it has an established character that works.  It has been, and continues to be, a place where small businesses can start up and thrive.  While there are a few chains in Dinkytown, most of the businesses are small and independently owned.  The existing building stock in much of Dinkytown is worth preserving, especially the 14th Ave SE and 4th St SE corridors.  I think that the buildings housing the Varsity Theater, Al's Breakfast, the Kitty Kat Klub, Espresso Royale and more are worth preserving.

One more piece of critical background information: there is a Small Area Planning process for Dinkytown underway right now.  It started in March (before the Opus project had been officially submitted to the City, but after many discussions about it had taken place with area stakeholders), and will be completed sometime fall/winter of 2013.  The purpose of this planning process is to "develop and refine the City’s land use and development policy for the Dinkytown activity center area."  While the City has general plans for increasing density in Minneapolis, it is important to note that we have not yet adopted a policy for dramatically changing the character of Dinkytown.

The Opus development is not a terrible idea.  Most of what it replaces is surface parking lot, and much of the public parking it removes will be replaced as structured parking.  These are good things. The public parking in the Opus development is important, because the developer doesn't have to put it back in.  We should have more people living two blocks from campus and a short bike ride away from downtown.  The Opus development itself looks to be of high quality, and flexible enough to support multiple types of residents.  (That is extremely important to me, because I fear that the student housing market may prove to be a bubble, driven by excessive and unsustainable student loan debt, and buildings that are too narrowly focused on the undergraduate student market are the most likely to fail if and when that bubble pops.)

My main objection to allowing this rezoning at this time is that it sends a message to developers that it is open season on the rest of Dinkytown.  Even Opus recognized this concern, and talked about their project as a "bookend" to the five- or six-story redevelopment to the north, a way to transition from taller buildings into the existing two- and three- story character of Dinkytown.  But many folks in Dinkytown don't believe it will work that way.  There is already substantial redevelopment pressure on the rest of the area.  I share their fear is that if the Council approves the Opus development without taking any other action, the Small Area Plan will be moot before it is complete.  Where the Plan may call for retention of some or most of the existing C1 small business zone, the market will already have gobbled up the rest of Dinkytown and be well on its way to redeveloping it into buildings like, or potentially much worse, what Opus has proposed.

I want to be clear: there are parts of Dinkytown that could be redeveloped into something better, in my opinion.  The 400 block of 15th Ave SE is a good example: right now it's a surface parking lot and a strange, sub-surface fast food chain restaurant.  I could foresee a good Small Area Plan listing this as a potential redevelopment site, and making clear that additional density would be appropriate there.  But I would also expect that the Small Area Plan would make an effort to retain what works, like the pedestrian-friendly, thriving 4th Ave SE corridor.

I recognize that there is substantial difference of opinion on this project and on the future of Dinkytown. Some of the "Save Dinkytown" activists do not want to see even the parking lots on 5th Street redeveloped.  At the same time, some advocates of increasing urban density might not mind if all of Dinkytown was redeveloped into five or six story mixed-use buildings.  I've received tens of contacts from folks who are against the Opus development (in addition to the more than three thousand people who signed the "Save Dinkytown" petition), and now that I've voted against the rezoning I'm hearing from folks who didn't like that vote.

I'm somewhere between these two positions, call them "Save Dinkytown" and "Redevelop Dinkytown."  While I don't feel the need to stop all development in Dinkytown, I do think that tearing the whole area down and replacing it with six story, stick-built mixed use buildings is worth avoiding.  I think a lot of people feel the same way.

For what it's worth, this isn't just a matter of scale or aesthetics for me.  As I've noted, the small, independent business character of Dinkytown is one of the characteristics I value about the area, one of the aspects I think is worth preserving.  In my experience, new development tends to charge much higher rents than existing buildings, and I worry that the only business types that will be able to afford those rents are large national chains (for example, this seems to be the case with the Opus project).  While there's a place for chain stores, I think it would be tragic to push the small independent businesses out of Dinkytown entirely, and I fear that's what a wholesale redevelopment of the area would do.

The Opus project itself would neither keep Dinkytown as it is nor condemn the rest of the area to being torn down and replaced.  But it would, without some other action by the Council, send the signal that the Council is ready and willing to see Dinkytown wholly transformed into something completely different.

I don't think that's a good signal to send.  I think we need to give Planning staff and neighborhood stakeholders the time to finish the Small Area Plan, and to base our rezoning decisions for the area on that plan.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Minneapolis’ Energy Future

 

What Will Our Options Be?

 

Introduction

The City  of Minneapolis has adopted aggressive goals for dealing with the most pressing environmental problem of our time, global climate change.  But our current electricity provider is not doing enough to help Minneapolis residents and businesses to reduce our energy use and increase the percentage of our energy we get from clean, renewable energy sources.  They are continuing to raise rates even as consumption falls, and those rates are going in part into questionable investments in outdated nuclear plants, private jets and corporate profit.  Reliability is not improving, and the electrical grid is more sensitive to external shocks than it needs to be.
It would be irresponsible for us not to seize this moment to put our energy economy on a different path, either by improving the behavior of our existing utilities or by forming one of our own.  Other cities have their own energy utilities, and by and large they do as well or better than investor-owned for profit utilities like Xcel on key performance measures like cost, reliability, and renewable energy.  The City also has a proven track record in providing cost-effective, highly popular utility services.
A vote by Minneapolis residents to empower the City to create a municipal utility would not be the last word.  The City would have to do much more study to see if forming our own utility would be the best way to meet our energy goals.  In the proposed resolution to put this on the ballot, the City makes clear that we will only form a utility if we can provide energy as or more affordably and reliably as Xcel.  And a second authorization from the voters will likely be required for the City to bond for the cost of the infrastructure. 
Even if we choose not to go down the path of forming a municipal utility, an affirmative vote by the people of Minneapolis this fall will strengthen the City’s hand in franchise negotiations next year.
 
A vote this fall is not the end of this process, but the beginning. A first step is achieving the energy future we desire and deserve and that the health of our economy and future generations demands. 
 

The City has adopted strong energy goals

The City of Minneapolis has been a leader on recognizing the dangers of climate change.  Recently, the City has adopted aggressive climate goals, including reducing carbon emissions by 30%, increasing energy efficiency in commercial and industrial buildings by 20%, generating 10% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2025, all from a 2006 baseline.
 
The Minneapolis Climate Action Plan adopted on June 28, 2013, includes many strategies for increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy that are not currently available through the utility service provided by Xcel Energy.  
 

The status quo is not working

The city has utility franchise agreements with Xcel Energy (Northern States Power) for electricity and CenterPoint Energy for natural gas. These agreements were signed in the early 1990s and both expire at the end of 2014.
In the Minnesota Public Utilities Act of 1974, the Minnesota Legislature deemed it in the public interest to allow electric utilities to serve designated areas on an exclusive basis as regulated monopolies. It also reserved to the state the right to regulate the rates utilities charge.
So in Minnesota, for-profit electric companies can be granted exclusive monopoly rights and are regulated by a state commission, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).  The PUC determines services, programs, service territory and rates of energy utilities. The PUC – not the city, nor Xcel customers, nor any kind of free market – regulates what Xcel does and approves the rates they can charge.  And they consistently do so in a way that guarantees Xcel a certain rate of return, usually around 10%.
Right now Xcel Energy has exclusive rights to provide all the electricity used in Minneapolis.  Xcel has a monopoly and is the only entity that can legally sell electricity in Minneapolis at this time.  
The City has limited ability to negotiate for options to better meet our energy goals and realize our energy vision as part of the franchise agreements.  Under existing state law, the City’s authority in the franchise agreements is limited to the amount of a fee that can be imposed and is passed on to customers, the fee structure, how the fees are used and some conditions on the use of the public right-of-way, such as repairing streets after construction work.
The City Council is supporting legislation that would allow franchise agreements and negotiations to include more options for making progress towards its goals for clean energy, improved air quality, equity and green jobs.  Xcel opposed these efforts at the legislature in 2013.
Seventy-eight percent of the electricity used in Minneapolis is generated by non-renewable sources (35.1% coal, 29% nuclear, 13.6% natural gas).  Electricity use in Minneapolis generates over 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
 

Meanwhile, electricity rates for Minneapolis residents and businesses continue to risesteadily, with Xcel Energy revenue per kilowatt-hour increasing by 32% since 2006.  Xcel recently asked for a 10.7% rate increase, but was forced by an administrative judge to reduce that rate increase to 4.7%.  One major reason for these rate increases is to increase profits.  Profits to Xcel’s shareholders increased 26% in the first quarter of 2013, and much of this rise ($75 million of the $237 million in total profits) came from similar rate hikes in Colorado, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
 

The track record is less than perfect

Since 2009, Xcel has used over $1.2 million in ratepayer dollars to ferry its executives between Minneapolis and Denver on their private jet.
Just this summer, it was announced that the costs to extend the life of the Monticello nuclear plant have doubled from $320 million to $640 million.  To put that in perspective, that’s more than $500 apiece from each of Xcel’s 1.2 million customers in Minnesota.  
Xcel’s plan for the new transmission line parallel to Lake Street was to string it above the Midtown Greenway.  Only once the City of Minneapolis, the Midtown Greenway Coalition, Hennepin County, and many residents, businesses and others opposed this plan within a contested case hearing was Xcel to bury the transmission line under 28th Street.  Before planning this project, Xcel did not have to do a Certificate of Need, and it is clear that the company did not do an in-depth study on addressing the increased demand in the midtown corridor through energy efficiency and local renewable energy.  (Legislation requiring such a study was passed by the Legislature, authored by Representative Karen Clark, but vetoed by then-Governor Pawlenty).
When the City of Minneapolis spent Federal Stimulus funds to put 40 kilowatts of solar panels on the Haaf Parking Ramp in downtown Minneapolis, Xcel required the City to spend thousands of additional dollars to prevent these solar panels from putting renewable electricity onto the downtown grid.  Xcel argued that allowing this clean, renewable power to get onto the grid would put the grid at risk, which indicates that the grid is too fragile to accommodate local renewable energy generation.
Though the City doesn’t receive good outage data from Xcel, it is clear that power outages were already a problem before the recent major storm.  For example, portions of the Seward neighborhood had at least two outages already in 2013 prior to the storm.
Xcel’s original plan for the Riverside Coal Plant was something called the “Minnesota Metro Emissions Reduction Project (MERP),” which would have tried to reduce air pollution while continuing to burn coal.  (Even this inadequate plan was something that Xcel was compelled to put forward by legislation.)  Xcel only agreed to convert Riverside to natural gas after a major coalition of neighborhood groups, environmental organizations and policymakers – including Mayor Rybak, Clean Water Action, the Izaak Walton League, the Sierra Club, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, the Southeast Como Improvement Association and others – put together the Clean Energy Now campaign.
Recently, Xcel has advocated for the Public Utilities Commission to adopt such a restrictive set of “data privacy” policies that they would gut the building energy disclosure ordinance recently adopted by the City of Minneapolis.
Xcel has fought the City’s attempt at the Legislature to allow cities to put more renewable energy and energy efficiency goals into franchise agreements.
Xcel has made much of their recent investments in new wind energy capacity, but it is important to note that these investments are required by the State of Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard.  Similarly, Xcel has had to be forced by the Legislature to allow “shared solar” arrangements.  And as of 2010, the “Windsource” program accounted for less than 1% of total electricity use in Minneapolis.
 
The City has had an ordinance on the books since 1960 to require “that all existing overhead distribution systems and transmission lines of electrical and communication utilities be eliminated as soon as possible and that distribution lines and systems used in the supplying of electric, communication or similar associated services be placed, constructed and installed underground.”  Xcel has never complied with this ordinance, and the City does not have the power to compel Xcel to do so.  To this day, most of the homes and businesses in Minneapolis are connected to the grid by overhead wires.  This creates many problems, including substantially reducing the resilience of the grid: when there is a major storm and trees come down, the power goes off.  That isn’t necessary; it’s a choice that Xcel has made.  Overhead wires also require Xcel contractors to aggressively prune many boulevard trees in Minneapolis, reducing tree canopy.
 

Municipal utilities are successful

One hundred and twenty-five communities in Minnesota and more than two thousand communities in the United States, including large cities such as Los Angeles and Sacramento, California, Seattle, Washington, and Austin, Texas, are served by municipal electric utilities.  These communities are home to over forty-seven million people and three million businesses.
Municipal utilities deliver reliable and affordable service.  Munis have been shown on average to have fewer and shorter power outages than investor-owned utilities.  Residential customers of municipal power utilities across the United States pay on average 14% lower rates than customers of investor-owned utilities.
Many larger municipal utilities are making much more progress on fighting climate change (with local renewable energy generation) than Minneapolis.  For example, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District has a goal of reducing emissions by ninety percent by 2050, and has installed one hundred times more solar capacity than Minneapolis has.

Right now in Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota, as a District Energy Organization, is not a municipal utility but illustrates what more energy independence can yield. It owns and operates a power plant, takes full responsibility for the distribution of its energy, and owns and maintains its distribution system. At its campus in Minneapolis virtually all the lines are underground and during the recent serious storm, for example, there was not a single power outrage from tree damage.
 

The City already runs successful utilities

The City of Minneapolis provides water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and solid waste and recycling utility services to the people of Minneapolis.  In 2012 over 90% of Minneapolis residents rated themselves as satisfied with these utility services, according to the City’s annual resident survey.
 

Other cities’ experience

Minneapolis is not the first city in the US to explore forming a municipal utility in recent years.  Boulder, Colorado is also looking into forming its own utility.  Their preliminary studies indicate that they can form a utility that keeps rates low, keeps good reliability, and dramatically reduces the greenhouse gas emissions from their city.
 

Passage of ballot initiative would not force Minneapolis to form municipal utility

Next year, the City will be in negotiations with Xcel and CenterPoint on new franchise agreements.  Having the option to form a municipal utility will give the City leverage in these negotiations.
As mentioned above, Xcel is fighting the City’s attempts to use our franchise agreements to make progress on our clean energy goals.  Last session, they lobbied against the City’s bill that would have increased the flexibility of franchise agreements.
To give you an idea what kinds of issues the City wants to address as part of its franchise agreements, you can find a set of franchise goals adopted by the City’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission.
 

The City of Minneapolis will only create a municipal utility if it makes sense

In fact, the resolution placing the municipal utility question on this year’s ballot includes the following text:
“Be it Further Resolved that the City of Minneapolis only intends to acquire the property of a public utility and form a municipal electric utility if it can provide energy services.
  1. Without raising electricity rates above the trend line established by Xcel Energy from 2006-2013
  2.  As or more reliably than the incumbent utility
  3.  In a way that meets the City’s aggressive emissions reduction and climate change goals
  4.  While meeting the City’s energy efficiency goals and increasing locally generated renewable energy.”
 
 
Additionally, both State Statue and the City Charter include provisions that may require the City to hold another referendum before approving borrowing (or bonding) for the amounts of money that would likely be needed to become a municipal utility.  This would only occur after additional extensive research and community engagement were completed and if the Council determined to actually move forward. Minnesota Statutes, 475.58 OBLIGATIONS; ELECTIONS TO DETERMINE ISSUE as well as the City’s own Charter make it clear that any decision to bond for more than $15 million depends on “the approval of a majority of the electors voting on the question of issuing such obligations or incurring such indebtedness at a general or special elections.”

Forming a municipal utility is possible

When the people of Boulder, Colorado voted to authorize the City of Boulder to create a municipal utility, Xcel Energy warned that it would cost more than a billion dollars to purchase the electricity infrastructure.  That has turned out to be inaccurate.  A recent estimate by the City of Boulder – using cost numbers supplied to them by Xcel – pegs the price of the infrastructure at no more than $405 million.  And that’s the worst-case scenario.  Here’s more from their study:
 
“Acquisition costs were modeled with $150 million as the highest cost scenario. That amount was the value provided by an Xcel consultant in a presentation to the city. In response to the city’s request for Xcel’s estimate of its stranded costs in June 2011, Xcel proposed a worst-case stranded cost figure of more than $330 million, for the first year, and $255 million if the city left Xcel’s system in 2017. Therefore, stranded costs were modeled with a high of $255 million in 2017, a best case of zero obligation, and at 50 percent of the highest or worst case. Stranded and acquisition costs, also referred to as “legal” costs, were tested for sensitivity, but as described below, they were treated differently from other uncertain inputs.” 
 

Now is the time for this ballot question

The City’s franchise agreements with Xcel and CenterPoint expire at the end of 2014.  In order to give the City leverage in next year’s negotiations, a ballot question would have to pass this fall.
 
The Energy Pathways Study which is to be complete by next January will give the City some information about our franchise and municipal utility options.  That information will be useful in pursuing either franchise agreements that meet our energy goals or creating a municipal utility.  It will not, however, answer every question about the creation of a municipal utility.  If the City goes down that path, much more study will be required.  There is no reason to wait to put this question on the ballot until after the study is complete.
 
 
CenterPoint has come to the table
In response to recent community efforts to get better energy options for the future, CenterPoint Energy has already agreed with community advocates on a framework of commitments to improving their energy delivery systems and providing jobs to people from all Minneapolis communities.  This framework includes the following:
  • A committment to pursue the City’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2025 and to assist all of its customers in reducing their energy consumption and the associated greenhouse gas emissions,
  • On-bill financing for residential energy efficiency investments,
  • A pilot comprehensive residential retrofit program featuring “hand holding” to identify potential energy-saving measures, assist customers with decision-making regarding implementation and contractor selection, and quality assurance inspections, possibly including a bulk contracting component,
  • A comprehensive multifamily retrofit program,
  • A study of energy savings potential and energy program participation specifically within the City of Minneapolis,
  • CenterPoint Energy’s support for state data privacy and disclosure policies that facilitate the use of customer energy usage data for purposes of tracking consumption against goals and encouraging greater conservation,
  • Combined Heat and Power, which offers significant energy savings at a system level where there are both electric and thermal requirements but which is not currently well-incorporated into state policy,
  • Renewable energy technologies such as solar thermal and biogas,
  • Reporting to the City about the amount of natural gas leakage in the CenterPoint distribution system and the steps taken to address methane leakage on an annual basis, and information from CenterPoint’s natural gas suppliers.  (This is important because methane is more than 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.)
  • CenterPoint will work to meet the City’s goals for hiring a more diverse workforce that better reflects the communities in Minneapolis.
 
Conclusion
 
The City has long been a leader on calling out climate change as a major issue that needs to be addressed.  With the recent passage of the Climate Action Plan, the City has committed to a set of concrete actions to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.  I believe that the City must do more to reduce the amount of energy Minneapolis residents and businesses use and waste through major improvements in energy efficiency, and to move ourselves off of fossil fuel and nuclear power to clean, renewable energy.  We can use the opportunity presented by the expiration of our franchise agreements with the energy utilities that generate two-thirds of our greenhouse gas emissions (Xcel and CenterPoint) to either align these utilities with our energy goals or create our own municipal energy utility. 
This is a justice issue.  The poor – both here in Minnesota and all around the world – are bearing and will bear the brunt of the impact of climate change.  And we owe it to future generations to leave them an inhabitable planet. 

This is an economic development issue.  This will mean jobs in our local communities.  Studies have shown that investments in energy efficiency retrofits and renewable energy create more local jobs than spending the same dollars on coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear.  More reliable, more affordable and cleaner energy is good for business. There is a new energy economy coming and Minneapolis can be part of it. 
This is a public health issue. Realizing a new energy vision would not only help reduce global warming but it will improve the quality of live in Minneapolis, and improve the air we breathe.
We owe it to ourselves and the generations to come to use this unique moment in our history to change the trajectory of our energy future.  Having the option, the authorization, to own and operate our own utility will open the doors to more positive partnerships with our existing energy producers and more possibilities for a new, innovative, vibrant energy economy for the future.
 
We can have cleaner, more local, more affordable and more reliable energy, but only if we’re willing to try.
 
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For more information you also may wish to visit the City's website and Minneapolis Energy Options.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Keeping Our Energy Options Open

Last Friday, the Council approved (on a 10-3 vote) my motion to bring forward 3 actions related to putting the question of becoming a municipal utility on the ballot in November.  These actions set a public hearing date within the timeframe required by state law to get the matter of authorizing the City to become a municipal utility on the ballot in November.  The specific actions are below the fold.

I have pushed this forward because I believe that now is the most appropriate time for the City of Minneapolis to consider forming a municipal energy utility.

Human beings are changing our climate.  We are already seeing the impacts, including larger and more powerful storms.  This morning, the Council unanimously passed a Climate Action Plan that commits us to work towards a 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 - and I do not think even that aggressive goal is enough.  I believe that future generations will judge those of us alive - and especially those of us in any position of political authority - chiefly on our response to this human-created crisis.

Our electrical grid is more fragile than it should be, and takes days to repair after the major storms that climate change is making more common.  According to an Electric Power Research Institute report most electrical outages are due to problems with the local distribution system. Minneapolis may to have some of the oldest and most worn distribution infrastructure in the region. A modern, state-or-the-art distribution system is critical to the success of our businsesses and essential to their ability to keep and create good jobs in our city. 

Each year the residents and businesses of Minneapolis pay  $450 million for electricity and most of those dollars are leaving our community.  Electricity rates continue to rise.  We use more energy than we need to to get the services we want, like lights, heat and cooling, and too little of the energy we use is generated renewably.  Most of our energy comes from coal, natural gas and nuclear, each with its own set of negative environmental impacts.  Our energy providers only make as much progress on energy efficiency and renewable energy as the state legislature requires them to - and sometimes not even that much.  If Minneapolis residents, businesses and elected officials disagree with their actions - like the decision to keep the Sherco coal plant on line, or to reduce the effectiveness of our building energy disclosure policy - our only recourse is to the Public Utilities Commission or legislature.
The status quo is not working.

Next year, the City's franchise agreements with Xcel and Centerpoint expire.  For years, I have believed that we must take this opportunity to make real, tangible progress on the environmental, reliability, and affordability issues above.  The franchise agreements have not helped us with these issues in the past.  It is entirely possible that they will not be able to help us, until and unless the legislature changes state law to make them more flexible.  

I believe that we will be in the best possible negotiating position next year if the voters of Minneapolis have given us another option, a possible exit from our current relationship with our monopoly energy providers.

And a decision by the Council to put this question on the ballot, and by the voters to approve it, will also give us the option to actually form a municipal utility.

Maybe, as some of my colleagues are already convinced (before any study has been completed), forming a municipal utility will not be possible or preferable.  This is why I support being very clear with our goals and our commitments as we vote on whether to put this on the ballot.  The City should only and will only create a municipal utility if we find, after an in-depth study, that we can:

  1. Provide energy services as or more affordably than the existing utilities.  This means that we will not raise rates faster than the existing utilities have been.
  2. Provide energy services as or more reliably than the existing utilities.  This means that we will have to be able to get the lights back on as or more quickly after a storm or other disruption - or, better yet, take steps to reduce the impact of storms on our electricity grid in the first place.
  3. Provide cleaner energy than the existing utilities.  This means more efficiency and more renewable energy.
  4. Provide more local energy than the existing utilities.  This means more solar right here in Minneapolis, and more wind close by.  It also means more good jobs for Minneapolis residents.

I believe that this is possible.  Other municipal utilities have cleared these hurdles.  Municipal utilities have been shown, on average, to raise rates less quickly and get the lights back on more quickly after an outage. The municipal utility for Sacramento, California has an emission reduction target of ninety percent, more than three times what Minneapolis has committed to, and is on track to meeting that goal.  They have installed more than ten times as much solar as our community has, enriching their local economy.  The people of Boulder, Colorado, have authorized their city to look into creating a municipal utility.  And the first reports are that it may be possible.  The city of Winter Park, Florida has already gone through this process, and their energy affordability and reliability is improving markedly.  It is possible.

The Energy Pathways study that the Council also voted to fund this morning will provide us some crucial, if not conclusive information on our two paths forward: improving our franchise agreements or moving forward with municipalization.  Some of my colleagues are concerned that the timing is wrong, and believe that we should wait for this study to be finished before asking the voters for authorization to create a municipal utility. I disagree.  I think the timing is just right.  We will receive the preliminary results of the study before the election this fall, and the final results in January, just in time for the study and the ballot measure results to inform our franchise negotiations next year.

This is the time to be having this conversation, and I look forward to a very informative public hearing on August 1.

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