By Jessica Lee

Star Tribune

Minneapolis’ partnership with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy is starting to take shape after a bumpy ride through the City Council.

The Clean Energy Partnership, a board of utility and city representatives, convened for the first time Wednesday to begin addressing energy affordability and efficiency.

Mayor Betsy Hodges said the city-utility collaboration took its first, historic steps in providing new energy solutions.

“This is an innovative partnership,” said Hodges, who has been a strong backer of the partnership. “People from across the country, as well as locally, are looking at what we’re doing. We’re forging new territory.”

The city approved an agreement with the two utility companies in October to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and utilize more alternative energy sources. The board includes the mayor, representatives from the utility companies and other city officials.

Partnership members now want to form the Energy Vision Advisory Committee to provide the board with feedback and ideas. The board is hoping to attract a wide array of candidates for the committee, ranging from students to developers. Members hope to finalize committee selection later in February.

The board will meet quarterly and its work will be shaped by the city’s Climate Action Plan, which outlines goals of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.

Xcel Energy’s regional vice president, Laura McCarten, who was named the board’s vice chairwoman, said the company’s agreement with the city will ensure that community voices are involved in energy discussions, leading to better energy solutions.

The new clean energy partnership’s rollout had some early bumps. Funding issues and disagreements on who should represent the city on the board resolved last month; Council Members Elizabeth Glidden and Kevin Reich received the appointment. And a proposal to cut some of the partnership’s funding was initially approved by the council, but eventually rejected after a strong push from activists.

The city’s agreements with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy could last a decade, with two optional five-year extensions. The previous deals lasted 20 years.

“With the leadership of the mayor and some concerted effort among the utilities in the city, there’s a lot of things we can do, even behind the work we’ve done so far,” said Joe Vortherms, CenterPoint Energy’s vice president of gas operations.

Jessica Lee is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.