On July 20, 2023, the Minneapolis City Council approved the city’s new Climate Equity Plan (Equity Plan), which outlines strategies for the city to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 by centering equity, environmental justice and public health. The Equity Plan builds on the goals and programs established by the 2013 Climate Action Plan (CAP), which originally set emissions reduction targets of 30% by 2025 and 80% by 2050, relative to 2006 levels. The initiatives of the 2013 CAP allowed Minneapolis to reach its 30% reduction target several years early in 2020 but faced criticism from the local environmental justice community for a lack of meaningful engagement with and prioritization of vulnerable communities. The new Equity Plan highlights Green Zones, the city’s established environmental justice neighborhoods, as key recipients of resources that support climate initiatives in the area. The final plan also includes strategies to improve climate resilience, public health, and the city’s economy across ten sectors, including Buildings & Industry, City Operations & Enterprise, Energy Systems, and Healthy Homes.
Minneapolis’ Green Zones are communities that have been concurrently impacted by environmental pollution and racial, political and economic oppression. These communities were originally identified by the Environmental Justice Task Force in the 2013 CAP but were not formally established by the city until 2017, after a citywide climate change vulnerability assessment showed a significant disparity in extreme heat risk between formerly redlined neighborhoods and non-redlined neighborhoods. The 2023 Equity Plan seeks to correct historical injustices and promote equity by directing resources towards climate action in the Green Zones, placing its most in-need communities in a position of top priority.
Equitable, inclusive and culturally literate community engagement was foundational to the development of the Equity Plan. Listening sessions were conducted from February to October 2022 through in-person events, virtual open forums and an online survey. Outreach intentionally centered feedback from BIPOC communities, immigrants, older and younger adults, people with disabilities and under-resourced residents. Categories for climate equity action in Minneapolis were identified through the listening sessions, and working groups of technical and community experts were formed around those categories to develop goals and strategies. The plan was presented to the city council in April 2023, and approved by the council in July following a 45-day public comment period. The executive summary of the plan is available to read in English, Spanish, Af Somaali, Hmoob, Af Oromoo and Lao; the full draft plan is currently only available in English.
Energy Efficiency in the Equity Plan
Through their outreach efforts, the working groups and steering committee identified energy efficiency and lowering energy burden as key community concerns, particularly among Green Zone residents. Strategies to expand community-wide energy efficiency and resilience are identified in each section of the plan, with two solely dedicated to buildings. These strategies include making the water treatment process more efficient by using battery backup instead of diesel generators to power treatment in the event of a power outage and developing inclusive financing to pay for water and EE improvements on residents’ water bills. In addition, the Equity Plan outlines goals to support existing and new resilience hubs that utilize microgrids to support multiple users and explore incentives for energy-efficient indoor agriculture.
To meet the extensive goals outlined in the Equity Plan, Minneapolis has also identified strategies for expanding green career opportunities for residents. The Economy & Workforce chapter of the plan sets a long-term goal of training 1,000 residents in green careers by 2030. This includes shorter-term goals of expanding workforce training for energy efficiency and working with community organizations that specialize in business capacity building to provide assistance in obtaining drivers licenses and reliable transportation to those pursuing careers in green infrastructure and energy auditing.
Sixty-five percent of Minneapolis’ 2021 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions came from commercial, multifamily and industrial buildings, making building decarbonization a priority of the 2023 Equity Plan. A breakdown of GHG emissions from five primary sources (wastewater, on-road transportation, solid waste, fossil gas and electricity) from 2013 to 2021 showed that the greatest emissions reductions were due to electric efficiency and renewable energy upgrades, with minimal improvement from natural gas. The 2023 Equity Plan has two sections dedicated to expanding energy efficiency while reducing the footprint of natural gas in the city’s building stock: Buildings & Industry and Healthy Homes.
Buildings & Industry
The Buildings & Industry section of the Equity Plan includes the continuation and expansion of initiatives from the 2013 CAP. These include the Energy Benchmarking Program, which requires commercial and multifamily buildings over 50,000 square feet to track and report their energy and gas usage to the city, and the Green Cost Share Program that supplies matching funds to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The primary goals of these initiatives are to “equitably reduce GHG emissions from the industrial, commercial, and multifamily building sector by 75% by 2030 and ensure all new city-owned buildings will be net-zero by 2030.”
Within the next twelve months, the city plans to conduct a community-wide assessment of industrial energy uses to identify strategies for industrial emissions reduction. The city also plans to partner with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy to incentivize the use of cold-climate heat pumps in multifamily buildings and the replacement of end-of-life gas appliances with electric.
In the long-term, the city has goals to expand its Green Cost Share Program to incentivize energy efficiency and renewable projects in multi-family, commercial and industrial buildings,; utilize existing Conservation Improvement Programs to provide rebates based on the existing level of efficiency in a building rather than on improvement from current building code standards,; develop a rebate and funding model to address the “split incentive” of energy savings and costs for owners versus renters; and develop an Existing Building Performance Standard.
The city has also set new goals for residential energy efficiency to reduce emissions and improve public health. The Equity Plan sets three overarching goals for Healthy Homes: 1) insulate and weatherize all 1–4-unit homes by 2040, beginning with Green Zone properties, 2) eliminate the number of households with an energy burden over 6% by 2030 and 3) begin transitioning to all-electric homes.
The plan establishes a goal to pilot whole-home weatherization and electrification retrofits in low-income rental properties by 2024, with a larger goal of completing 3,000 wall insulation and 5,000 attic insulation and air sealing weatherization upgrades by 2030. Also, by 2024, the city plans to require Truth-in-Sale-of-Housing (TISH) reports to identify gas and electric resistance equipment in properties and encourage high-efficiency electrification, dual-fuel heating systems and carbon-free energy options. Minneapolis’ longer-term healthy home goals include expanding existing energy-related incentive programs for home weatherization projects, Green Zone homes and low-income households,; partnering with utilities to streamline city- and utility-influenced aspects of the home weatherization and energy efficiency retrofit programs; and using future franchise fee alterations to implement conservation programs or bill payment assistance to reduce the amount of households experiencing high energy burden.
MEEA will continue to follow Minneapolis as the city begins to implement the 2023 Equity Plan. Follow the plan’s progress on the City of Minneapolis Sustainability website.