Minnesota’s energy future is a matter of choice, not fate. Conducting an energy future study (EFS) offers a rare and valuable opportunity to step back from annual debates over energy policy and take a more measured and longer-term view of the state’s energy trajectory. It is a chance to engage a wide range of stakeholders in weighing together the risks and opportunities of different possible energy futures, and ideally coming to some agreement on what sort of energy system Minnesotans ultimately want—whether that’s maintaining the status quo or an alternate path that meets most, or even all, of Minnesota’s future energy needs with energy efficiency and other forms of clean energy, including renewables.
2014 marked the year that solar energy, energy storage and electric vehicles – hallmarks of a decentralized electricity grid – got big enough to threaten the electric utilities, exposing their 100-year-old business model as out-of-date.
In nearly 20 states, utilities are fighting back, proposing new fees and rules to minimize the competition from customer generated power. Many energy experts have proposed an adaptation to the utility business model – called “Utility 2.0” – to allow electric utilities to stay financially solvent as their customers power up. But this new model falls short if it cuts off customers from the enormous economic opportunity.
Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s newest report – “Beyond Utility 2.0 to Energy Democracy: Why a technological transformation in the electricity business should unlock an economic transformation that grants power to the people” – addresses the need for a Utility 3.0 model, outlining the principles and policies for “energy democracy.”