Keeping and Breaking Promises for Clean Energy

These are the best of times. These are the worst of times. Take your pick.

On January 18, 2012, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission unanimously  voted to approve power purchase agreements for 30 megawatts of locally-owned wind on the south side of Minnesota’s Buffalo Ridge. Almost nine years ago, in approving an ultra high voltage power line through western Minnesota, the Commission had ordered Xcel Energy to purchase 60 megawatts of locally owned wind power.

The idea was simple. If local rural communities have transmission lines and towers cutting through their farms and homes, they should gain some benefit from potential ownership of clean energy. It may have taken a few years and some interesting negotiations, but in the final analysis my client, Minwind Energy, the Department of Commerce, Xcel Energy and the Commission all agreed. Community Wind South was economical, reasonable and met the requirements of the 2003 Order: Promise kept.

Just a couple weeks later, the Republican Senate took the appalling action of rejecting Public Utilities Commission Chair Ellen Anderson. Apparently, it was irrelevant that she is highly-qualified for the job, knows the applicable law and had run proceedings with sensitivity to citizens and ratepayers as well as conscientious review of the record. It was irrelevant that in more than 220 votes on the Commission, Chair Anderson was in the minority only 6 times. It was even irrelevant that the renewable energy, conservation and energy efficiency legislation that Senator Anderson had authored in the Legislature had enjoyed bi-partisan support and had been signed by a Republican Governor.

Partisanship instead of policy. “Gotcha” instead of governance. Special interests instead of public interest. Bottom line, whether you care about clean energy or clean politics: Promise broken.



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