Thursday, July 17, 2014

Utilities should serve users, not Wall Street shareholders

Reinventing utilities: How Minnesota is rethinking the utility business model

Quick Take: We've been warning you for some time now that we've hit the tipping point. The traditional utility business model will no longer suffice. More and more utility commissions are grappling with what to do instead. After telling you about Hawaii, New York and others, I thought you would like to see how Minnesota is going about it.

Given that Minnesota is so polite it could almost be part of Canada, you will not be surprised to hear that it is approaching this complex challenge in a bi-partisan, inclusive away. – Jesse Berst

"Minnesota has a cultural tradition of being pragmatic, civic-minded, and passionate about bringing people together as the way to solve problems," says Rolf Nordstrom, president and CEO of the Great Plains Institute in a guest post for the Rocky Mountain Institute blog. Now Minnesota is applying this inclusive approach to reforming its energy policies.

The state already has strong energy efficiency standards. And an ambitious renewable portfolio standard that calls for 30% of electricity from renewables by 2030. As it looks forward, Minnesota expects to see a future in which customers:
  • Produce all or part of their own power
  • Want more control over how that power is generated (e.g. green energy)
  • Want more information and control over when where and how they use energy
To prepare for this new future, Minnesota has conceived the e21 Initiative. It will convene a broad set of stakeholders over a year to reexamine the utility business model and regulatory framework. Nordstrom reports that the initiative will employ Adam Kahane's problem-solving approach called transformative scenario planning. "These scenarios... are helping e21 stakeholders identify the threats, opportunities, and choices Minnesota faces."

(The article is here.)


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