With Xcel’s “Stakehholder engagement” meetings on their IPR have been scheduled during work hours on weekdays making it not very accessible to the general public beyond those who are being paid for work in an energy policy related job. In addition, the stakeholder engagement workshops are a lot of dense technical information being presented in a quick manner.
From my experience, the events are a lot of Xcel officials and their research partners talking at us but not a lot of stakeholding. MN Public Utilities Commissioner Schuerger noted that Xcel’s stakeholder events seem to be "talking to," not engagement.
There are ways a number of people can submit feedback on Xcel’s IRP, including surveys Xcel sent out. But in these actual events they seem to be putting things in front of stakeholders that they have already decided.
This leaves one with some question. Does Xcel want to hear feedback from stakeholders in order to learn some answers on critical questions over our energy future? Or are they wanting feedback from stakeholders so that they can know how to reduce opposition to what they already want to do? Is Xcel’s goal with the “stakeholder engagement” to convince enough of the people who will be following their IPR docket that they have thought things through enough to be right?
The MN Sierra Club had these same questions about Xcel’s stakeholder process along with concerns that it was ineffective and not accessible. In response, the Sierra Club launched their own “Reclaim Your Power” event series from the summer as a way to model what real engagement looks like and listening to the priorities that the community wants.
This involves making both the content and the timing of the event accessible to the community. It also means equipping and motivating people to participate in the public process and answering in real time the questions on how we break down the barriers to public involvement.