In 2011, a campaign that would eventually become Community Power was set up, with the aim of directing more of the US$450 million Minneapolis residents spend each year on energy bills towards a clean energy economy. Since the partnership’s creation, a broad coalition of actors have pushed forward community-grounded energy solutions: universally-accessible, debt free financing for energy efficiency upgrades; and switching to 100% renewables; workforce development for marginalized communities; just community solar.
Minneapolis had ambitious climate action goals, but was making no moves to upgrade its energy strategy to do so. Moreover, people of colour, renters, and low-income energy users were at a disadvantage both in terms of financing clean energy solutions for their heating (e.g. solar panels), and in getting jobs in the local clean energy sector. Community Power saw the need for a different model centered on equity and local benefits, ownership and decision-making power.
The initial aim of the campaign was to give the city the option to municipalize its energy utilities. The campaign stirred discussion within city leadership, which led to the crafting of the country’s first city-utility partnership, known as the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership (CEP). Community Power pushed to shorten the franchise agreement to 5-10 years for increased accountability, and established a 15-member advisory committee including representatives from diverse constituencies. In coalition with a black-led grassroots group it also defended the partnership’s and racial equity funding at City budget hearings.
After the establishment of the partnership, Community Power began to broaden these processes to support energy democracy and community wealth-building in a variety of ways, including continuing to influence the Partnership’s work plan and hold it accountable through the Partnership’s citizen advisory committee and grassroots members; building a movement around inclusive financing (a tariff-based financing model designed to require no credit score, no upfront capital, and savings starting day one); local access to community solar, and renter engagement, working for renters’ rights broadly, including energy access and affordability issues.