Recently in the City of Minneapolis, an idea has been brewing for several years. Many people and organizations in this city, both profit and non-profit, have renewable energy, or alternative-source energy, as a lofty goal. This is good. Xcel Energy has been on board with this idea for years. In point of fact, Xcel Energy is the number-one producer of wind energy in the Unites States for the ninth consecutive year.
However, there have been quiet discussions of late about Minneapolis getting into the energy business. The stated goals range from “just a review” of the implications for the future, to leveraging Xcel in negotiations, to some who wish Minneapolis to take over the energy business with the city limits. Quietly some see this as a cash cow for the city.
First and foremost, let’s review some of the practical implications. The city would have to borrow through bonds as much as $5 billion to buy and set up the business just within the city limits. The current budget of the city is approximately $1.35 billion. Minneapolis would tie up almost all its future ability to borrow on this venture alone. Next, it would have to hire, train, and equip the personnel to run it. That takes time. The energy re-routing from sub-stations and changing the power grid would be an immense undertaking. Xcel’s St. Paul, Richfield, or Robbinsdale customers would not want to be on the same power grid as Minneapolis. They would stay with Xcel, having it repair any loss of power due to a storm. The recent extremely strong storm that cut power to 600,000 people in the metro area was unique. That notwithstanding, Xcel had most customers back on line with 48 hours, and all within five days. Council Member Lisa Goodman’s comment about the city taking over the power business within Minneapolis was well taken: She asked if we could imagine getting power back in five days if the city ran Xcel Energy, when Minneapolis can’t get downed trees cleared from the roads in that time frame. Some council members think that this should be on the ballot in November to see if the people want to take over Xcel within the city’s jurisdiction.
If the public hearing on August 1 is favorable to those who wish the city to take over Xcel, followed by a favorable vote on August 16 by the city council to put it on the November ballot, the people of Minneapolis then can vote on it. The DFL Party recently voted at its convention to add this to its platform so it will appear on the Official DFL Sample ballots. The ballots will tell DFLers to vote “Yes” to Minneapolis getting in the power business.
Just remember this: The city has always had the right over the last 100 years that Xcel has been the city’s partner and has seen fit not to get into the business of providing power and maintaining it. If Minneapolis does so, consumers would NOT have protection of the governor-appointed State Regulatory Commission to control price increases. The City of Minneapolis would have the right to RAISE YOUR BILL AT ANY TIME, FOR ANY REASON, FOR ANY AMOUNT IT WANTED.
Those who prefer “Wind Source” energy can currently buy it from Xcel for only $10 more a month. Imagine what the city would charge if it fixed rates! Have you seen your property tax bill lately?