Macon Cowles: Not the time to take an exit ramp from the Muni Project


July 20, 2020

Dear Council:

We on past Councils always knew that Municipalization (“MuniZ”) is a long game—a generational effort that can transform energy flows and put the brakes on the speed at which we are hurtling toward climate change. At each of the four times (2010, 2011, 2012, and 2017) during the last ten years that some aspect of MuniZ was headed to a vote in Boulder, Xcel has made a significant change that reduces its reliance on fossil fuels or increases its use of renewables. So the very pursuit of the MuniZ Project by Boulder has brought about significant benefits to the environment and to all Colorado customers.

Now is NOT the time to abandon this project.

At the Charter Amendment on the matter—Ballot Question 2O in 2017—the City bound itself to give the voters a final vote on municipalization after to total costs for acquisition are known. Those costs are not known yet, and will not be known for another two years.

For Council to put a settlement with Xcel on the ballot before the costs of MuniZ are known would be to ask voters to choose based on inadequate information. It would be, as Richard Dawkins said of the Brexit vote, like asking voters if Einstein had gotten his algebra right.

At a panel on “The Utility of the Future” at COSEIA in Broomfield March 15, 2017, a rural western Kansas cooperative serving 40 counties and a rural cooperative from northern New Mexico both explained how they were giving customers increasing choice and rapidly adopting renewable energy generators. When it came time for panelist Alice Jackson, VP of Xcel, to explain her company’s vision for the future, she stated quite honestly, “We cannot accept a path forward that reduces our income stream.”

In 2013, an analysis of Xcel’s profitability, using its own documents, found that of $120 million per year that Boulder ratepayers paid Xcel for electricity, $35 million was overhead and profit. This is one of the advantages buried in one of the three Rs: Rates. Prior Councils have wanted to LIFT this $35 million burden from Boulder ratepayers.

Just keep in mind that there has been nothing since that COSEIA conference in 2017 that changes the profitability of Xcel’s keeping Boulder as part of its system.

PLEASE, do not abandon the MuniZ process. Bring it to the finish line—a vote when ALL the numbers are known, fulfilling the promise to voters made in Ballot Question 2O.

Thank you.

Macon Cowles
Boulder City Council Member Emeritus (2007-2015)