Evan Freirich: Municipalization: Franchise deal isn’t so great

August 12, 2020

Boulder, after fierce “negotiations” with Xcel Energy regarding our electric utility franchise, has successfully forced Xcel to do what Xcel was already legally committed to do anyway. Boulder got a commitment from Xcel to spend a few million dollars a year on undergrounding – money that arguably has been improperly withheld from Boulder for 10 years. Boulder got a commitment from Xcel to reduce its reliance on carbon fuels. Xcel is already required to do that by state law.

As a bonus, Boulder has also successfully extracted a promise from Xcel to “cooperate” on several projects that have no evident due dates, specific deliverables, or budgets. There are no penalties if Xcel doesn’t perform. In exchange for all of this, the City Council is about to break its promise to us that we citizens would have a go/no-go vote on municipalization only after all the costs are known.

If this agreement passes, Boulder would give up the opportunity to save at least $40 million per year in energy supply costs and be fossil free by 2030. The city’s blog says: “The potential agreement reflects decades of public participation and input.”   “Overrides” might be more accurate.

The city still has not yet fully responded to two sets of citizen concerns delivered to the city earlier this year (https://empowerourfuture.org). City leaders did not need to poke a hornets’ nest in the middle of a pandemic, but somehow Xcel dared them to do it. Xcel has applied its old trick of last-minute “take-it-or-leave-it” offers to seduce us into making a big mistake. Let’s not let them get away with it.

Evan Freirich

Published in the Boulder Daily Camera 8/12/2020

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