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Paying more for power — An Environmentalist’s View: Rate hikes not needed to grow clean energy, protect environment

Power companies across the country realize that investing in clean, efficient energy is a win-win business decision. With the costs for electricity from wind now cheaper than coal and natural gas, utility providers like Minnesota Power are making common-sense investments in renewable energy. This is protecting our environment, creating good-paying jobs, and saving businesses and customers millions.

Kathryn HoffmanMinnesota Power reported in its 2015 Integrated Resource Plan that by following the state's renewable-energy standard, clean-energy and energy-efficiency investments saved its customers $35 million between 2005 and 2014. Those savings are expected to continue. Minnesota Power will save its customers $42 million between 2015 and 2019.

That's a lot, enough to pay for its surcharge on residents and small businesses to give a rate break to large industries. The surcharge hikes rates 6 percent to generate $33 million to give large steel and paper companies a 5 percent discount.

This surcharge, coupled with Minnesota Power's proposed general rate increase, would force some customers to pay an extra $225 per year on their energy bill. The proposal would disproportionately hurt those struggling to make ends meet, including low-income families and seniors on fixed incomes.

Blaming these proposed hikes on the environment is wrong.

Minnesota Power likes to say these rate hikes are good for its customers and good for the environment — that they're "necessary" to grow its clean-energy fleet.

But that's simply not true. Just by following our state's energy policies, Minnesota Power's cost savings are a reason to lower rates for Minnesota families and seniors, not raise them.

Since our state established our nation-leading renewable-energy standard, Minnesota seen cleaner air, and we're making strides to protect our water and land from harmful pollution.

Minnesota Power doesn't need to force unfair rate hikes on its customers to protect our air, water, and land. It's not either-or. Minnesota Power has proven clean energy and energy conservation saves enough money to keep its shareholders and customers happy with reliable, clean energy.

Minnesota Power: let's do better.

Kathryn Hoffman is executive director of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy in St. Paul (mncenter.org), one of the parties involved in the rate case involving Minnesota Power that is in front of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.