Separation Plan | PUC Case 15A-0589E
On September 14, 2017, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission issued a written ruling that represents an important milestone for the City of Boulder in its effort to create a publicly owned electric utility. Contrary to what has been reported in the local Boulder media, the PUC ruling represents a positive step and a way forward for the city. The Commission’s own press releases provide an unbiased perspective on the their position, and for the not faint of heart, please feel free to read their decision:
PUC Press Release, September 14, 2017: “PUC issues written decision on separation plan”
PUC Press Release, August 31, 2017: “PUC Creates path forward for Boulder municipal plan”
The “Separation Plan” is Boulder’s technical request to separate the local electric grid from Xcel’s, and its plan for doing so. It is a complex document outlining many of the engineering, legal and financial issues that would be involved. The process has taken several years, partially because of delays and legal challenges by Xcel and other opposing parties, and because of the differing perspectives of the previous Public Utilities Commission. The former PUC was inclined to micromanage the municipalization process, and the city had responded by designing a detailed, multi-phased plan. The current PUC on the other hand, swept away many of these steps (by “denying” them as unnecessary), and simplified the process. That was a positive development for Boulder. The current PUC also directed Boulder and Xcel to negotiate many of these issues and gave them a 90-day deadline. The city of Boulder appreciates the 90-day deadline. Important things to understand:
- In its ruling, the PUC ordered Xcel to negotiate “in good faith” with Boulder multiple times. The PUC did not use such language with the city.
- Xcel President David Eves has testified that Xcel would collaborate with Boulder in its efforts to form a municipal utility.
- The PUC has repeatedly affirmed the city’s right – under the Colorado Constitution – to create a municipal electric utility, and asserted publicly that it has a responsibility to “avoid delaying” the process.
- In its separation plan, the city had asked for the PUC to rule on several points that would be advantageous financially, such as joint use of Xcel equipment. But, in their ruling, but the PUC declined to order Xcel to share. Since the city had anticipated these negative rulings, and accounted for them in its cost estimates, the PUC decision does not necessarily mean increased costs for Boulder. Nor does it mean that Boulder and Xcel are prevented from negotiating new agreements in the next 90 days.