CenterPoint Energy reached an agreement Tuesday with a community environmental organization, Minneapolis Energy Options, to collaborate on improving energy conservation and other programs, one week before public hearings begin on the possibility of Minneapolis taking over electric and natural gas service.
As a result, the two parties will tell the City Council that they’d like to exclude CenterPoint from a November referendum in the works that would municipalize those services.
“Our shared goal is to advance Minneapolis’ standing as a leading city on sustainability and energy conservation,” said Joe Vortherms, division vice president of regional gas operations for CenterPoint, in a statement.
CenterPoint, which supplies natural gas to 125,000 customers in Minneapolis, has agreed to expand its conservation improvement programs and consider new initiatives to expand energy efficiency in homes. The company also said it will support diversity programs providing youth and adult job training.
Minneapolis Energy Options has been advocating for the city to explore taking over the electric and natural gas services as longtime franchise agreements are set to expire next year with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint. The coalition has described that as one of a range of possibilities to help the city meet its renewable energy goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2025. While council members have voiced caution about taking such a dramatic step, some say putting municipalization on the table will give the city crucial leverage in its negotiation with the utility companies.
CenterPoint was “very interested in avoiding the municipalization fight and in order to do so, they wanted to meet the goals of [our] campaign,” said Dylan Kesti, campaign coordinator of Minneapolis Energy Options.
He said that the organization is also willing to sit down with Xcel, which it wants to produce more solar and wind energy and improve the electric grid.
Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who chairs the committee overseeing energy issues, described the agreement as a “positive sign” that CenterPoint is willing to help the city meet its energy goals. She said she would be hard-pressed to see why the city should put the question of municipalizing natural gas on the ballot.