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We Recommend That You Vote NO on 2C

This fall Boulder voters are being asked to decide whether they support a complex set of 20-year agreements with Xcel Energy.

  • Xcel’s agreements will commit the city to a new 20-year relationship that could be difficult to end.
  • These last-minute agreements have not been adequately vetted or communicated to the public. The City of Boulder has not had time to analyze what the agreements will cost Boulder ratepayers.
  • Xcel does not share Boulder’s goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030. Xcel’s fossil-heavy energy mix will be Boulder’s energy mix. We will be responsible for our share of Xcel’s expenses and debt.
  • Ballot issue 2C would force Boulder to abandon a 10-year effort to explore a local power utility and prevent Boulder’s pursuit of competitive options with higher percentages of cost-saving renewables.

From what we know thus far, here are some of the problems with the Xcel proposals:

1) VOTE NO on 2C. It is highly unlikely that the partnership with Xcel will help Boulder meet its climate goal of 100% Renewable Energy by 2030 in any significant way.

It is highly unlikely that the partnership with Xcel will help Boulder meet its 100% by 2030 goal. Colorado state law requires that Xcel reduce its greenhouse gases by 80% compared to 2005 levels, anything over that is unlikely. Xcel plans to meet the state goal using more fracked fossil gas, along with only about 65% renewable energy. Xcel’s energy mix will be our energy mix.

The City of Boulder would have to finance the renewable energy resources needed to close the gap to 100%, potentially unknown hundreds of millions of dollars, while continuing to pay our Xcel bills, including their profits.

2) VOTE NO on 2C. There is more financial risk if Boulder goes into Franchise with Xcel.

Boulder would have fewer opportunities to pursue alternatives that would provide more renewable electricity faster at a savings of tens of millions of dollars per year.

Boulder would be responsible for our share of Xcel’s stranded fossil fuel assets (over $1 billion), and their hefty infrastructure spending (over $7.6 billion in the next five years).

Ratepayers would continue to bear the cost of Xcel’s repeated rate increases designed to increase shareholder earnings – no matter how cheap renewable electricity becomes.

3) VOTE NO on 2C. These agreements do not give Boulder a “Great Green Deal.” These agreements favor Xcel on most points.

The Partnership Agreement requires Boulder to support Xcel as “…a healthy utility company.” There is no reciprocal obligation on Xcel’s part to support the City of Boulder.

There is no committed funding from Xcel for Boulder’s renewable energy goals. Clean energy projects Boulder aspires to undertake will potentially require Xcel and PUC approval, legislation, or years of research.

Xcel’s fossil-dominated, inflexible centralized energy plants and regulated, for-profit business models are susceptible to extreme weather and climate change challenges..

4) VOTE NO on 2C. The new 2020 Franchise Agreement is NOT a good deal for Boulder. Boulder will have more opportunity to invest in renewables if we stay out of franchise.

Not a good deal economically — Boulder will be locked into paying Xcel rates. We will miss the chance to access the competitive renewable energy market which would reduce electricity costs.

Not a good deal for the climate — Boulder will be stuck with Xcel’s fossil fuel-heavy energy mix for the foreseeable future, and hobbled by its slow-to-innovate, centralized, and profit-driven business model.

Not a good deal for equity — Xcel’s rate structure is NOT “equitable.” Lower income people pay a higher percentage of their income for electricity than upper income people and there is scant access to renewable energy or financial support for energy costs. Low income neighborhoods suffer more power plant emissions.

5) VOTE NO on 2C. This is very likely a 20-year decision – Opt-outs are complicated and risky.

Xcel has brought numerous lawsuits to block Boulder’s efforts to exercise our Constitutional right to form a municipal utility. These lead many to strongly suspect that Xcel will make exiting proposed agreements difficult – likely leading to lengthy court challenges and causing prohibitive expenses.

The earliest Boulder could leave the franchise would be after a Nov. 2024 vote, making revival of the local power effort problematic at best. There would likely be significant loss of knowledge and expertise over those years, and many expensive technical and financial updates about Boulder and Xcel systems will be needed to restart the process.

6) VOTE NO on 2C. There is no need for voters to decide on a franchise now. There is no rush! Xcel is required to continue providing electricity whether we sign a franchise or not.

Boulder is being forced to make a 20-year commitment decision in a very rushed manner in the middle of a pandemic. There has been no meaningful community involvement in the negotiations, no time for the city to fully analyze the cost of the agreements or to compare with alternatives, and little time to educate voters about this consequential decision.

Voters need to know what they would get and what they would lose. So far, voters do not know either.

7) VOTE NO on 2C. We can have more renewable energy without Xcel. Xcel is not moving fast enough to meet climate challenges.

Boulder can move more quickly than Xcel. Boulder can move further than Xcel. In 2018 and 2020, Boulder received proposals from electricity providers that will meet its clean energy goals by 2030 at acceptable prices.

Staying with Xcel trumps democracy — energy decisions will be made by Xcel and the PUC, not Boulder. Staying with Xcel creates major barriers, limiting: rooftop and community solar, batteries, local microgrids, new rate structures, energy incentives, third party ownership, energy sharing, and others.

Our neighbors will receive 50% of their energy from non-carbon resources by the end of 2020: Longmont, Estes Park, Loveland,and Fort Collins. Colorado Springs, and Tri-State (serving CO rural electric coops) all plan to retire all coal generation by 2030. Xcel Energy plans to operate coal plants well after 2030.

8) VOTE NO on 2C. The 2020 agreements are unenforceable. Xcel is not legally committed to implementing Boulder’s policies and programs.

Read the fine print! The Partnership Agreement (PA) does not obligate Xcel to work towards more progressive energy initiatives or specify concrete deliverables (e.g. eliminating or changing the 120% rooftop solar limit it fought hard to impose in the first place). There are no project deadlines or committed funding.

If 2C passes, Boulder will have to continue to pay its own legislative lobbyists and PUC attorneys, while we also continue to pay for Xcel’s political influencers through our utility rates.

9) VOTE NO on 2C. Boulder ratepayers will pay the franchise fee. Xcel is just the middleman.

Don’t be fooled! Boulder ratepayers will pay the franchise fee. Xcel will collect the franchise fee from you every month and pass that on to the city. If we enter into a franchise, where you currently see the Utility Occupation Tax on your electric and gas bill, those lines will read Franchise Fee.The franchise agreement has no effect on city finances. The city will get the same revenue from the franchise fee that the city currently gets from the UOT while out of franchise.

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