Xcel: City utility not in best interest of Minneapolis

Xcel Energy officials said Wednesday they hope to persuade the city of Minneapolis to renew the utility's franchise contract, arguing that setting up a municipal utility would not be in the city's best interest.

The comments came a day after CenterPoint Energy announced an agreement with the citizens group pushing for more renewable energy, improved reliability and lower rates. Minneapolis Energy Options wants to reach a similar agreement with Xcel. Without such an agreement, the group hopes the City Council will place a measure on November's ballot that could open the door to creating a city-owned utility before the 20-year contracts with Xcel and CenterPoint expire next year.

Laura McCarten, regional vice president for Xcel, said the utility is interested in working with the city to meet goals aimed at addressing climate change.

"When we look at our track record, we are nationally recognized leaders when it comes to renewable energy, energy conservation and clean energy strategy in general," McCarten told MPR's The Daily Circuit. "We do that at the same time as we meet the most fundamental requirements of our customers, which is to provide safe and reliable power."

McCarten said Xcel is on track to meet a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

"That aligns even faster than what the city is trying to achieve in its Climate Action Plan," she said. "If we can sit down with the city and have a conversation, we're confident that we can craft a plan working together that will help them achieve those goals much more quickly than taking a diversion into a discussion of municipalization, which is frankly very divisive."

The agreement Minneapolis Energy Options reached with CenterPoint includes efforts to continue helping customers conserve natural gas as part of the city's goal to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent before 2025.

"CenterPoint has been a great partner in this process of working to achieve the city's goals," said Dylan Kesti, campaign coordinator for Minneapolis Energy Options.

Kesti said municipal utilities in other parts of the country use more clean energy and have been more reliable and more affordable."We can do better than the status quo," he said.

The Minneapolis City Council will hold a public hearing on the issue next Thursday.

A group advocating for the city of Minneapolis to consider creating city-owned electric and natural gas utilities reached an agreement Tuesday with the city's natural gas provider, CenterPoint Energy. The two will work together to reduce emissions.

The deal likely means natural gas would be left off a ballot question if the City Council puts the question of municipal-owned utilities to voters. But that referendum could still ask whether the city should dump Xcel and have municipal-owned electricity.

We speak with the campaign coordinator for the advocacy group, Minneapolis Energy Options.

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