Reporting Rachel Slavik
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis city leaders are considering a major change to who provides electric and natural gas utilities.
Right now, more than 180,000 customers in Minneapolis get their power from Xcel Energy and 125,000 get natural gas from CenterPoint Energy. Next week, the public will weigh in on a proposal to make those utilities city-owned.
Up until now, Minneapolis resident Judy Kauth hasn’t given much thought on who provides her utilities.
“I just pay the bills and go along with it,” Kauth said.
After receiving a letter from Xcel Energy, however, it’s getting her attention.
“They’re talking about creating municipal gas-electric utilities,” said Kauth.
The power company is reaching out to its customers, addressing a proposal by Minneapolis city councilor Cam Gordon.
“I think one of the big things is it would lead to more energy independence,” Councilor Cam Gordon, who represents Ward 2 in Minneapolis, said.
His two resolutions, calling for a public referendum, will take steps towards making natural gas and electric city-owned and operated utilities. Gordon believes it gives the option for cleaner-greener energy and more reliability in the power grid.
“If we were our own utility company, we’d have a real chance to do that,” said Councilor Gordon. “This is a critical time in our history, I think, and we can change the direction of energy future if we keep all options open and on table.”
Regional Vice President of Xcel Energy, Laura McCarten sees the proposal differently.
“It’s a complicated and costly solution in search of a problem,” she said.
McCarten believes costs would rise if the city had to bring its own utility infrastructure online. The letter that Xcel sent to customers states: “The city’s residents and businesses would spend billions of dollars to acquire the property of Xcel Energy within the city.”
However, Gordon says the language in the resolution provides outs if the city finds that a municipal utility would cost customers more.
McCarten also argues the company is already a leader in clean energy. Her solution is work with the city to meet everyone’s needs.
“Let us bring our resources, expertise and track record,” McCarten said.
For Gordon, the proposal will give the city and its residents the best deal possible for future energy needs. He, too, is open to the option of more discussion.
“I actually think having the option on table of municipal utilities will help us get a better partnership with our current providers even if we don’t follow through. If it looks expensive or difficult,” Gordon said.
A representative for CenterPoint Energy said a city-run natural gas utility is expensive and complex.
The company is taking steps to work with Minneapolis City leaders and Minneapolis Energy Options, a collaboration of businesses and neighbors who are committed to expanding energy options.
The group made an agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions by 30 percent by 2025.
In a press release, division vice president of regional gas operations for CenterPoint Energy, Joe Vortherms said: “Our shared goal is to advance Minneapolis’ standing as a leading city on sustainability and energy conservation. We believe MEO’s focus on local and sustainable energy practices complements our Conservation Improvement Programs. Together, we can help the city reach its energy goals.”
The resolutions will be introduced at a public hearing Thursday. A vote is slated for Aug. 16 by the full city council. If approved, it would go on the November ballot.