When choosing a partner for a new business or a key endeavor, it is best to be clear eyed about the partner’s strengths and weaknesses. So it is as Boulder chooses a partner for moving forward on an equitable, cost effective, climate and clean energy transition.
To start with, it is probably good to know how clean your partner is. While Xcel Energy has made some progress, in 2019 the company was still about 70 percent dependent on fossil fuels like coal and fossil methane. That’s not very clean.
Next, you probably want to know what your partner’s spending habits are. Xcel is planning on spending more than $7.5 billion in Colorado in the next five years. Boulder’s share of that is about $300 million, with no control. Ouch. Not good news on the financial front.
You probably also want to know if your partner shares core values. Here it is important to pay close attention to what your potential partner does — not just what it says. What Xcel does is work the Public Utilities Commission system to gain rate increases almost every year. These rate increases fall disproportionately on low-income customers. That’s not well aligned with Boulder’s commitment to higher equity in the energy transition.
These assessments are particularly important now because communities around Colorado are finding that new market entrants are able to provide much cleaner electricity at considerably lower prices than they previously paid. (Search “Guzman Energy Colorado” for some examples.)
As we move through the 2020s, there is a good chance that Boulder will be able to pursue a partnership with these market entrants, probably even without continuing with the municipalization process.
Boulder beware. You will be spending about $2 billion on electricity in the next 20 years. It is important to be clear eyed and choose your partners carefully.
This Opinion was published July 4, 2020 by the Daily Camera