Xcel rate decision is a climate justice win
The setting of electric utility rates may seem unrelated to climate justice, but it is not. Any viable climate solution requires that we redesign our electric grid to provide energy that is clean, reliable, local, safe, and affordable for all ratepayers.
Enter the utility rate case –a public process overseen by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to determine the proper price that different customers should pay their utilities for energy. Over the past two years, MNIPL and our partners in the Just Solar Coalition, educated and organized citizens to speak out about energy justice and the necessity that rates be fair for all payers. A recent decision was a major win for climate justice!
The PUC granted Xcel less than half of what they were seeking for an electric rate increase – 9.6% compared to their initial 21% increase request! The PUC also held down the Return on Equity (ROE) section of Xcel’s request, which is the profit that the state essentially guarantees a regulated energy monopoly for their service to the public. The regulators pointed out that when the utility is doing very well financially, and the communities they serve are not, increasing their built-in profit is not in the public interest.
Additionally, a new lower electric rate was established for residential customers that qualify on the basis of income and energy usage, both encouraging energy conservation as well as financially assisting those that are burdened the most by energy bills. Notably, the PUC formally acknowledged that energy justice must be a factor in setting electric utility rates.
These legal-like proceedings can be difficult for regular people to understand and access, yet without the public’s input, an evidenced-based body like the PUC simply can’t fulfill its mission to make decisions based on the public good. In this case, low-income and BIPOC ratepayers were better represented and their voices heard more clearly than ever before thanks largely to the organizing efforts of MNIPL and the Just Solar Coalition, which also includes Community Power, Cooperative Energy Futures, and Vote Solar. The Just Solar Coalition was a formal intervenor in the rate case, meaning they were able to bring expert witnesses and provide an official platform to those who are most affected by electricity rate increases, those who are least able to afford them, most commonly communities of color and low income.
Many thanks to Kristel Porter and Joshua Lewis of MNIPL for their community organizing work, to our valued partners within the Just Solar Coalition, and also to our organizational allies, Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota (CUB) and Energy CENTS Coalition, for pushing hard for these outcomes in this case and for many years.
Read more about the recent Xcel Rate Case decision here:
Energy equity advocates help keep Xcel Energy’s rate hike to a minimum