Boulder currently receives electrical power service from Xcel Energy, a regulated monopoly that serves many communities in several states.
In 2010, as the city’s 20-year franchise agreement with Xcel Energy was coming to an end, City Council had concerns about signing a new long-term agreement and decided, instead, to give the city time to study possible alternatives. The city spent the first part of 2011 building upon earlier studies to develop the analysis the city has done to date. In November of 2011, Boulder citizens approved the first steps in the creation of a municipal utility with the passage of ballot initiatives 2B and 2C.
Why it’s important
Boulder has spent several years analyzing its energy options. Despite efforts on both sides to reach a new partnership with Xcel Energy, that does not appear to be an option at this point. The city has produced a feasibility study of a local utility using all the data available at this time. The city needs additional information to develop a firm cost model, but Xcel Energy is not required by law to participate in the process necessary to obtain these costs unless the voters authorize formation of a municipal utility.
Xcel Energy is poised to make significant investments in fossil fuel generating resources. If a municipal utility is created,
the city hopes to maximize the benefits for our local businesses and residents while setting an environmentally and economically responsible path for years to come.
In November of 2006 the people of Boulder voted to impose a carbon tax upon themselves to fund city programs in conservation and energy efficiency. In 2005 the city had also appropriated money to fund a “municipalization task force” to investigate issues and opportunities of severing ties with Xcel and allowing the city to form a municipal utility. Xcel’s energy mix included roughly 80% fossil fuels, with the majority of that coming from coal. One of Boulder’s energy goals included a desire for more renewable energy sources available on the grid.
In 2005, an initial feasibility study for Boulder municipalization was conducted by RW Beck. The report concluded that municipalization was economically feasible.
To be in a position to consider all its energy options in 2010, Boulder therefore did not renew its franchise agreement with Xcel Energy when it expired. In November of 2011, Boulder citizens took the next steps in pursuing the option of creating a municipal utility by passing ballot initiatives 2B and 2C. 2B asked voters to authorize the creation of a locally-run electric utility. The utility would only be created once all start-up costs are determined, and if rates would be no more than those of Xcel Energy at the time of acquisition. 2C asked voters to extend and increase the Utility Occupation Tax to fund the preliminary costs associated with determining concrete start-up expenses and setting up the local utility.
On February 21st, 2013, Boulder City Council released a report updating the progress on research devoted to the creation of a municipal electric utility. The research analyzed six different options, decided upon by the City Council, with the goal of achieving the community’s energy targets. The report concluded that a shift from a private to a municipal utility company could: lower utility rates (for residential, commercial, and industrial sectors) projected over an estimated 20 year span, maintain levels of system reliability, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent through an increase in renewable energy production (by more than 54 percent).
On April 16th, 2013 a public hearing took place, followed by a council vote, to decide whether to continue to explore the option of a municipal utility in Boulder. The council voted 8 to 1 for continued exploration.
Clean Energy Action seeks to provide education and information for citizen participation in the city of Boulder’s process of pursuing a clean energy future. Please visit the City of Boulder’s website at BouldersEnergyFuture.com.