Regina Cowles: Xcel a Dead Weight on Good Ideas


One of the ideas that has propelled the muni forward is a future where Boulderites don’t merely need to be buyers of electricity, they can be investors in electricity and producers as well. Whether installing solar panels on your roof or investing in a wind farm, Xcel controls electricity prices, and in the process screws both the producer and the consumer. How? Xcel buys electricity from the producer (generated from rooftop panels or from a wind, hydro or solar project in which you have invested) at 3.5 cents and sells the electricity to customers at 12 cents.

This business model is called “the regulated monopoly,” and the PUC invokes that doctrine when its decisions protect the profits of Xcel — $35 million per year from Boulder electricity sales. Xcel has every incentive to maintain this tight grip, severely limiting, as they do now, the sale of any electricity to Boulder customers that is generated by anyone other than Xcel.

It would be a bad deal for Boulder to abandon the muni project in favor of the “cooperation/understanding agreement” offered by Xcel. Xcel makes no commitment of money or resources in the agreement, while frankly stating that implementing clean energy ideas “could require city funds for implementation.”

It is factually true that all of the breakthrough ideas for cleaner energy in Boulder have come from the staff and residents of this city; none has come from Xcel. Full Stop. Xcel is an uncompetitive business that will continue to be a dead weight in any relationship with the city. And as long as we are tethered to Xcel, Boulder’s vision of clean, reliable and cheap electricity will recede to the horizon.

So let’s continue to liberate ourselves by forming our own electric utility. Let’s go to trial at the PUC on April 26.

This Letter to the Editor was originally published in the Daily Camera.