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Continued: Schafer: Memo to Xcel: Try less outrage, more savvy

  • Article by: LEE SCHAFER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 31, 2013 - 11:14 PM

“That’s been part of our struggle,” McCarten replied.

Maybe a better approach would be to see “the city” much more broadly than just the folks who go to work in City Hall. The people advocating for a different energy approach are operating primarily through a group called the Minneapolis Energy Options coalition (MEO), and there’s a cultural chasm here for Xcel to cross.

When Minneapolis Energy Options campaign coordinator Dylan Kesti stopped by the newspaper last week to discuss regional energy policy, long pants were optional.

CenterPoint Energy has been a target of activists, as well. Unlike Xcel, it saw it could do business with Minneapolis Energy Options, last week signing a three-page memorandum of understanding.

CenterPoint “affirms that it is a willing partner” in advancing the goals of MEO. It has agreed to “collaboratively explore” improvements in energy conservation programs and to “collaboratively explore” other ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In the realm of business, CenterPoint has agreed to nothing. In the realm of politics, it has made a deal.

As for Xcel, “I have gotten the impression that they expect some deference, for their work as a utility,” said John Farrell, chairman of the steering committee of Minneapolis Energy Options. “They are doing a great job of meeting their requirements [for renewable sources], but that does not mean we should stop asking for things or not aspire to do better.

“And there would be no better partner than Xcel in doing it. They do have all that experience and technical expertise and understanding of the regional grid, and they could bring all of that to the table.”

Some City Council members in Minneapolis must be thinking that booting Xcel and taking over as a power company is a yearslong process with huge financial risks to the city. They would have to be asking themselves when Xcel will come to the table. These council members don’t have a pressing energy policy problem, they have a political problem.

Xcel has met with members of the Minneapolis Energy Options group, and McCarten characterized it as a “good exchange of ideas.” Yet Xcel executives need to do so much more, meeting energy policy advocates maybe at the Hard Times Café on Riverside Avenue rather than at headquarters or the mayor’s office.

Loosen the tie. Listen. Talk about a memorandum that Xcel actually can sign.

And if Fowke won’t calm down, leave him in the car.

lee.schafer@startribune.com • 612-673-4302

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