Minneapolis shoots for 100 percent renewable energy in five years


Xcel's LED street lights, piloted in St. Paul and soon to sweep Minneapolis, are so energy-efficient they've brought complaints of being too bright. Carlos Gonzales, Star Tribune

Minneapolis currently gets about 18 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. Far from satisfied, officials believe the city could step that up to 100 percent in just five years—while drastically reducing demand at the same time.

The city uses about 100 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year, costing taxpayers about $11 million to $12 million to keep government properties running. The two biggest consumers are sewage and street lights, which together comprise nearly 70 percent of the city's bill.

But as Minneapolis embarks on changing every single lightbulb from florescent to energy-efficient LED in every street lamp and public building—including the power-guzzling convention center—energy manager Brian Millberg predicts that the city could reduce its overall usage by 15 percent in 2022. 

Last year, Minneapolis signed community solar garden contracts for a small portion of its energy. A new but increasingly popular option for consumers who aren't able to install their own rooftop panels, the gardens are shared solar arrays supported by subscribers.

In five years, Minneapolis' reliance on this source of energy is expected to reach nearly 10 percent, according to Millberg. To reach its ultimate goal, the city would have to install more than $10 million worth of solar panels wherever there's space, such as its water treatment facilities, and increase its renewable contract with Xcel. That would bring the city to two-thirds renewable, and increase charges up to $500,000 a year.

On Monday, the city's Ways and Means committee chair John Quincy (Ward 11) called the contract a "great deal," before it passed the committee unanimously.


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