Boulder Facing Critical Vote on Municipal UtilityPublished on: Monday, April 10, 2017
The Boulder City Council Will Decide April 17 Whether to Terminate PUC Case
Boulder, CO, April 10 — The City of Boulder is facing two critical deadlines this month that could impact Boulder’s ability to sever its relationship with Xcel Energy and create a municipal utility.
On Monday, April 17th, the Boulder City Council will have the opportunity to determine whether to move forward with Boulder’s case before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. That decision is being triggered by two settlement proposals delivered by Xcel Energy on March 31 offering either a $900 million “buyout” to the city for its assets, or what is essentially another franchise renewal agreement, that Xcel is calling a “partnership.” Xcel has specified that a key condition for the city to choose either of these two proposals is that Boulder would have to abandon its proceedings at the PUC, just prior to the start of a critical hearing on April 26th.
Boulder’s hearing before the Public Utilities Commission will examine the city’s technical separation from the Xcel Energy electric grid, and, if approved by the PUC, would pave the way to move forward with condemnation proceedings. A critical milestone in Boulder’s municipalization case before the PUC, the separation hearing is the culmination of six years of work and millions of dollars invested in developing the plan to create a Boulder electric utility. A decision is expected in June. The PUC has already ruled that the citizens of Boulder have the constitutional right to create a municipal utility, but there is no precedent or roadmap for this technically complex process.
Empower Our Future is urging the Boulder City Council to continue with its proceedings before the Public Utilities Commission, and reject the Xcel settlement offers for now. “This so-called partnership agreement is just a proposal to renew the franchise,” said Steve Pomerance. “As written, it would not help Boulder achieve its carbon reduction goals. I’m concerned that Xcel is proposing to work out the “details” after we’ve given up our case at the PUC.”
Commenting on the last-minute Xcel proposal, Leslie Glustrom pointed to over a decade of contentious negotiations with Xcel Energy that have yielded no concessions for Boulder in its effort to decarbonize its energy supply. She said, “This late-breaking offer is nothing but an effort to derail our PUC case, just when it is beginning to look encouraging. Boulder voters have authorized the city to explore a municipal utility numerous times. We cannot betray that mandate now.”
Alison Burchell said the Boulder case may provide a template for other communities. “I believe that working with Boulder, the commissioners can develop an energy future roadmap that works for other Colorado cities seeking greater local control in their efforts to secure a clean energy future.” Pueblo has also expressed interest in creating a municipal utility to meet its clean energy goals.
Since 2005, Boulder has been assessing the feasibility of creating a municipal utility in order to gain the freedom to develop more renewable energy resources than would be possible under an Xcel franchise agreement. Increased renewable energy production would help the city meet its climate change mitigation goals – which include a 100% renewable energy power supply by 2030 – and provide a vital economic stimulus to Boulder’s clean tech economy. Xcel Energy generates 70% of its power using fossil fuels, primarily coal, and plans to continue using its newly built coal-fired power plant until 2070.
About Empower Our Future
Empower Our Future is a coalition of community organizations, local businesses, and individuals with a vision of a sustainable world and a shared commitment to brining the best local clean energy future to Boulder. Empower Our Future’s mission is to move forward on a path to a 21st century utility that provides innovation, local economic development, sustainability and energy reliability at competitive rates, while providing clean energy with lower emissions. To learn more please visit www.EmpowerOurFuture.org.