Tag Archives: public utility commission

URGENT: SAVE BOULDER’S BID FOR A MUNICIPAL UTILITY

This week could prove critical in determining Boulder’s energy future, and CEA needs your support.

Xcel Energy has launched a bid to stop Boulder’s 7-year effort toward municipalization in its tracks. One April 17th, the Boulder City Council considers two proposals from Xcel designed to dissuade us from our quest to control our own energy destiny.

Two days later, on April 19th, the Public Utilities Commission is holding an equally critical hearing on a motion to dismiss Boulder’s municipalization case outright.

We need your help to keep municipalization alive!

This is a critical moment for the future of independent municipal utilities in Colorado, so we ask not just Boulder residents but all Coloradans to step up to the plate.

Email the PUC at dora_PUC_complaints@state.co.us​​ with your support for Boulder’s constitutional right to form a municipal utility. A few things to mention:

  • Communities should have a right to determine their energy future and should not be constrained by Xcel’s thinking and corporate constraints
  • Under the law of Colorado, Boulder has a constitutional right to form a municipal utility, and it is up to the Commission to protect that right, and make sure it means more than words in a statute book
  • At this defining moment in the history of our planet, we need more options than a profit-driven monopoly that remains dependent on fossil fuels for more than 70% of its power generation.

We also ask our supporters to contact the City Council at council@bouldercolorado.gov and tell them to stay the course! We encourage you to remind them that:

  • Boulder Energy Future has worked for seven years to build a realistic, reasonable alternative to continued partnership with Xcel.
  • Boulder voters have weighed in on this issue not once but several times. In ballot measures in 2011, 2013, and 2014 Boulder’s residents asserted their demand to control their own energy future.
  • The two deals proposed by Xcel are both unacceptable, and do not reflect the best interests or desires of the rate-payers of Boulder.

Most importantly, there is a Stay the Course Rally outside the Municipal Building at 1777 Broadway, Boulder CO 80302 from 5:00-6:00 pm before the City Council hearing on Monday April 17th. Please come and show your support for Boulder’s Energy Future and the municipalization effort. Wear green and bring signs or posters. A couple ideas for signs and poster slogans:

  • “STAY THE COURSE!”
  • “Just Say NO (To Xcel)!”
  • “Don’t Give Away Our Energy Future!”

Finally, we ask all of our supporters to be polite and respectful when communicating with the PUC and the City Council. We cannot overstate the importance of addressing our officials in a way that is clear and concise, and also gracious and polite.

Thank you for your support. Together we will make a difference!

A Decoupling Update

So, it’s been quite a while since our last long policy post, focusing on utility revenue decoupling in connection with Xcel’s current rate case (14AL-0660E) before the Colorado PUC.  That’s because we’ve been busy actually intervening in the case!

A Climate Intervention

We filed our motion to intervene in early August.  As you might already know, in order to be granted leave to intervene, you have to demonstrate that your interests aren’t already adequately represented by the other parties in the case.  Incredibly, CEA’s main interest — ensuring that Colorado’s electricity system is consistent with stabilizing the Earth’s climate — was not explicitly mentioned by any of the other parties!

In our petition we highlighted our mission:

…to educate the public and support a shift in public policy toward a zero carbon economy.  CEA brings a unique perspective on the economics of utility regulation and business models related to mitigating the large and growing risks associated with anthropogenic climate change.  In addition, CEA has an interest in transitioning away from fuel-based electric generation in order to mitigate the purely economic risk associated with inherently unpredictable future fuel costs.

…and we were granted intervention.  So far as we know, this is the first time that concern over climate change has been used as the primary interest justifying intervention at the PUC in Colorado.  In and of itself, this is a win.

A Long and Winding Road

Throughout the late summer, we spent many hours poring over the thousands of pages of direct testimony.  Especially Xcel’s decoupling proposal, but also (with the help of some awesome interns), the details of the company’s as-of-yet undepreciated generation facilities — trying to figure out how much the system might be worth, and so how much it might cost to just buy it out and shut it down (were we, as a society, so inclined).

Early on in the process, the PUC asked all the parties to submit briefs explaining why we thought it was appropriate to consider decoupling in the rate case, whether it represented a collateral attack on decisions that had already been made in the DSM strategic issues docket, and how it would interact with the existing DSM programs.  We pulled together a response, as did the other intervening parties, and kept working on our answer testimony — a much longer response to Xcel’s overall proposal.  The general consensus among the parties that filed briefs, including CEA, SWEEP, WRA, and The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC, a solar industry group representing big installers like Solar City) was that decoupling was not an attempt to roll back previous PUC decisions related to DSM — and that addressing it in a rate case was appropriate.  Only the Colorado Healthcare Electric Coordinating Council (CHECC, a coalition of large healthcare facilities and energy consumers) told the PUC that decoupling ought to be considered an attack on previous DSM policies.

The PUC staff unfortunately came back with a reply brief that disagreed and suggested, among other things, that maybe it would be better if we just went with a straight fixed/variable rate design to address utility fixed cost recovery.  Never mind the fact that this kind of rate would destroy most of the incentives customers have to use energy efficiently.

And then we waited.

With baited breath each Wednesday morning we tuned in to the Commissioners’ Weekly Meeting, streaming live over the interwebs from the Windowless Room in Denver.  We watched regardless of whether anything related to our dear little 14AL-0660E was on their agenda.  Just in case they tried to sneak it by.  Weeks passed.  And then a month.  The deadline for submitting our answer testimony approached.

Finally on October 29th, six weeks after submitting our brief, the commissioners finally brought up the issue of decoupling at their weekly meeting and in a couple of minutes, indicated that they’d be severing it from the proceeding, with little explanation as to why.  However, because there were no details, and the order isn’t official until it’s issued in writing… we continued working on our answer testimony.  The final order came out on November 5th, and prohibited submission of testimony related to decoupling.  Answer testimony was due on November 7th.

Where to From Here?

Xcel might come back to the PUC with another decoupling proposal before the next Electric Resource Plan (in fall of 2015) .  Or they might not.  This means that a good chunk of the work that we’ve been doing since this summer will have to come to light in a different way.  So for the next few posts, we’re going to explore some of the issues that came up in the preparation of our answer testimony, including:

  • Decoupling and Distributed Energy:
    How would decoupling interact with distributed energy resources like rooftop solar?  What are the implications for utilities as the costs of those resources continue their precipitous decline?
  • Decoupling and Demand Side Management:
    How would revenue decoupling interact with demand side management programs in general — both utility and privately or locally funded — and what particular issues with Xcel’s DSM programs could decoupling address?  What issues can’t it help address?
  • Can Revenue Decoupling Scale?
    Why doesn’t revenue decoupling as a policy really scale up to the point of  taking existing generation facilities offline, or preventing new facilities from being built?
  • Decoupling as a First Step:
    Even if it can’t scale, why might decoupling still serve as a useful starting point for the decarbonization process? Can it give us a little bit of breathing room while we start the real negotiation? Or is it just another layer of financial protection for utilities who want to delay change as long as possible?
  • Realism and Equity in Carbon Budgets for Colorado:
    What is the true scope of the decarbonization challenge, in the context of the carbon budgets recently published by the IPCC in their Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), but localized to Colorado so we can actually wrap our heads around it.  Why is this conversation so hard?

Learn more about utility revenue decoupling on our resource page…

Featured image of binders (full of PUC filings…) courtesy of  Christian Schnettelker on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Bright or Dark?

The City of Boulder Presents Karl Rabago

Thursday, March 13th, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
West Senior Center: Creekside Room
909 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO 80302

Update! Watch the presentation online:

The Q&A Session:

Are you wondering why solar is in the news so much these days? Is the industry in trouble? And what might changes mean for Boulder’s plans to draw more of its power from the sun?

We’ll be exploring these questions – and many more – on March 13 at a free and public event featuring Karl Rábago, a national leader and innovator on solar energy. We’d love to see you there!

This conversation is both relevant and timely. As part of the Energy Future initiative, the Boulder community has said it wants to increase opportunities for local generation of cleaner electricity. While initial modeling put an emphasis on wind, solar will undoubtedly be an important part of our resource mix. Boulder also has lots at stake in terms of the solar industry. Solar leaders that help individuals and businesses gain access to solar technology are contributing to our strong economy, positioning our community to make the type of environmental progress others dream about.

But regulatory changes are looming – and some worry solar’s golden era may be coming to an end. Locally, Xcel Energy has proposed significant changes in net metering as part of its 2014 renewable energy standard compliance plan. These issues have been severed into different dockets, but the decisions will be important nonetheless.

Few people understand the concerns and opportunities better than Karl Rábago. With more than 20 years of experience in electricity policy and regulation, energy market development and energy technology development, his perspective is deep and broad. Rábago operates an energy consulting practice, Rábago Energy LLC, providing strategic, policy, regulatory and market development consulting in the clean and innovative energy sectors. He serves as Chair of the Board of the Center for Resource Solutions, a San Francisco-based non-governmental organization that works to advance voluntary clean energy markets, and also sits on the Board of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC).

Past Positions:

  • Commissioner, Texas Public Utility Commission
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Energy Vice President of Distributed Energy
  • Services at Austin Energy Director of Regulatory Affairs for the AES Corporation and AES Wind
  • Sustainability Leader with NatureWorks, LLC
  • Managing Director & Principal, Rocky Mountain Institute