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Wednesday July 6th 2022

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Curious about a “key victory” in the Xcel Powerline dilemma?

By Tim Springer, Executive Director, Midtown Greenway Coalition
As many Alley readers may know, Xcel energy applied to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for a permit to construct two new high voltage transmission lines over the Midtown Greenway or nearby, and two new substations. The community has concerns about potential impacts on human health, aesthetics, and historic resources, and consigning this part of town to blight.

Because of the relatively short distance of the lines, about 1.2 miles, a “certificate of need” was not required for the project. This means that the PUC cannot deny the project, they may only say where the wires go. This was a frustration to many people who felt that a closer look should be taken at energy conservation, local power production such as with photovoltaic solar panels, electricity storage, and smart grid. The only way to require an analysis of this bundle of alternatives is to require a certificate of need.

Enter State Representative Karen Clark, our rock star legislator. Karen pulled together a group of people, including lobbyists for Xcel Energy, and hammered out language acceptable to community members and Xcel Energy. Then she changed state law to require a certificate of need! Other legislators who deserve thanks are Senators Linda Berglin and Ellen Anderson.

The certificate of need process will be undertaken over the next year or so. The route permit process that is already underway with the PUC to determine where the wires and substations will go will be finalized and decisions made, but the permit will not be signed and the project will not be constructed until after the need for the lines is proven. Even if a certificate of need is provided and the high voltage lines are allowed, the analysis of possible energy alternatives created as part of the certificate of need process could provide a great energy efficiency and energy alternatives roadmap for south Minneapolis, potentially making us much greener and providing many green jobs. Yeah Karen Clark, shero of the day.

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