Our city is not prepared to respond to climate change. We’re still consuming fossil fuels at an unsustainable rate, and have been slow to develop alternative infrastructure to replace it. Our transportation options remain car-centric, even with significant recent improvements in biking, walking, and mass transit. Too much of our water is polluted. Our food supply chain is highly unsustainable, with a great deal of what we eat being shipped great distances from factory farms.
We have the potential to shift our energy consumption to wind and solar, to reduce our reliance on cars, to protect our rivers and lakes, and to develop more sustainable pipelines of locally produced food from Midwestern farmers. Each of those goals would be worth doing for health and quality of life reasons, but they take on increased urgency as a program of local self-reliance to make Minneapolis more sustainable in a world economy that will experience unpredictable disruptions.
I support programs to encourage property owners to take responsibility for managing the water runoff from their property. By strengthening water management standards for new development, and providing education and resources to single-family home owners and owners of existing buildings to shift to permeable surfaces, rain gardens, and other proven sustainable water management techniques, we can keep our river clean, even as we add density to our city.
I support a policy that sets goals of 100% renewable electricity for city operations by 2021, 100% renewable electricity by 2030 for all Minneapolis energy users, and 100% renewable energy in all sectors by 2050. It is only by setting aggressive goals that we will focus our attention and establish the right priorities. We need to do everything that is in our power to create this kind of urgency.
I’ll support the installation of community solar gardens on city-owned rooftops, I’ll use the platform of city council to lobby the PUC and create public pressure for utilities to pay higher rates for solar energy, and I’ll support city policies like smart density and improved transit options that reduce our per capita energy consumption.
We can also pair workforce development with renewable energy development to meet racial equity goals at the same time as our climate goals – and we need to make sure that these are good, union jobs that can compete with fossil fuel jobs in the energy sector.
I view a shift to community-based solar and wind energy as a strategy for fighting poverty and improving quality of life. I support securing universally-accessible financing that allows all Minneapolis energy users to make energy efficiency improvements through monthly payments on utility bills. We need financing models like this to support the level of installation we need towards energy efficiency.
I support an increase in utility franchise fees of 0.5% of Minneapolis energy sales to be re-invested in dedicated long-term funding for local energy solutions. The economic and environmental upside to local energy solutions more than outweighs the .5% cost increase.
Finally, I support the goals of the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership, but it should be assessed with a strong critical eye toward results. It’s not enough just to be at the table, and we cannot allow it to greenwash the reputation of our utility corporations without making progress towards our goals.
Hopefully, the Partnership will have produced measurable clean energy outcomes in reduced fossil fuel consumption, increased access to clean sources of energy, and an increased percentage of energy generated by renewable sources for our city. However, if we have not made adequate progress toward our aggressive goals for a shift to clean energy, we need to keep structural transformations on the table to instill the necessary sense of urgency in utility companies that have a financial incentive to fully deplete their fossil fuel investments before shifting to renewables. The best case scenario is still for the utilities to partner with us and align with our renewable energy goals, but we almost certainly won’t see that unless we’re prepared to go our own way.