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Xcel Energy has cut a program that planned to invest $9 million to create energy resilience stations at three community centers serving diverse neighborhoods in Minneapolis.
Xcel’s Resilient Minneapolis project was celebrated by the company and city for its investment in three “resiliency hubs” when it was announced in July 2022, but now construction scheduled to begin next summer won’t happen.
The program aimed to fund rooftop solar arrays and battery storage systems at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, Sabathani Community Center, and the Renewable Energy Partners’ North Minneapolis headquarters.
These systems would enable the community centers to maintain power during outages, allowing nearby residents to convene at the centers to charge devices such as cellphones or to cool down in hot weather. The centers were envisioned as “islands” that could help keep their neighborhoods stable.
“Xcel Energy has made the difficult decision to suspend the Resilient Minneapolis project,” the company wrote in a statement.
Minneapolis is disappointed by Xcel canceling the program, said city spokesperson Sarah McKenzie.
“These projects were negotiated with the city of Minneapolis and approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, and hundreds of hours of collaboration and evaluation have gone into making the projects a reality,” McKenzie said.
Representatives from the three impacted organizations did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Public Utilities Commission does not comment on open dockets, but does have a public comment period on Xcel’s petition to withdraw the project, where people can weigh in on the decision until June 26 (Docket number 21-694).
Xcel said economic inflation led the project’s cost to increase by more than 70 percent, and also blamed supply chain issues for further delays that complicated the project.
The Resilient Minneapolis project emerged from Xcel Energy’s Integrated Distribution Plan, an effort required by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for power providers to map out their investments in the local energy grid.
The project began with Xcel Energy and Minneapolis city government looking for ways to expand energy storage capacity and clean energy sources in the city. The goal was to add more “non-wired” alternatives that could distribute power without connection to power lines and poles.
Xcel Energy policy and outreach manager Nick Martin told Sahan Journal last fall that after George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police in May 2020, Xcel wanted to expand partnerships with organizations that are led by and serve local communities of color.
None of the $9 million has been spent yet, Xcel said. The utility said the move to cancel the project was not related to the recent Public Utilities Commission ruling to limit Xcel’s electricity rate increases.
“We remain deeply invested in working with our partners and intend to continue discussions on potential future collaborations, including community resiliency projects, as we continue our commitment to connect with and support our communities,” Xcel said.
Sabathani Community Center is located in an old middle school building in south Minneapolis that had a zero Energy Star efficiency rating when it began working to lower its energy bills and carbon footprint in 2019. The Resilient Minneapolis project was a big part of its green energy renovation plan, and also bolstered its mission to serve the Black community.
Minneapolis officials will stay in touch with Xcel to look for ways to meet the project’s goals, McKenzie said.
“We believe in the vision of trusted community resilience hubs and their desire to be able to continue to serve people during times of power outages and other emergencies,” she said.