PLAN-Boulder: Xcel Franchise Negotiations

July 21, 2020

To Boulder City Council:

PLAN-Boulder County has been a strong and consistent supporter of municipalizing Boulder’s electric utility since the idea was first brought forward by our citizens. While the path to separating our electric utility from Xcel has been arduous, we continue to believe that separation will best support Boulder’s energy future, and that the City should continue its effort to achieve this outcome.

Currently, a committee of the council, Sam Weaver and Bob Yates, along with city staff, are negotiating with Xcel to settle on a new franchise agreement.

Although we do not doubt that elements of a new franchise agreement could be marginally more beneficial to Boulder than the last franchise, all the same conditions that led the citizens to support municipalization in several elections over the past decade will necessarily be part of any new agreement, namely:

  • that as a private, investor owned utility, Xcel’s commitment is to its shareholders, not to Boulder;
  • that control over the utility will reside in Minneapolis, not in Boulder;
  • that profits from operating the utility in Boulder will end up going to shareholders and Xcel executives;
  • that Xcel will only be able to do what the PUC allows them to do and Xcel will have to offer the same terms to other Xcel customers, since they are prohibited from offering special terms to individual cities; and,
  • that, should the Colorado legislature actually take up energy issues related to climate change and utility structures, Boulder may be precluded from participating in any new energy paradigm since we will be locked into a franchise agreement.

PLAN-Boulder has serious concerns about the negotiations for the new franchise:

  • The negotiations are being conducted behind closed doors, by a committee of the council without any real public scrutiny;
  • The timeline is so rushed that the council’s goal of placing this on the November 2020 ballot will not allow time for any real public engagement;
  • Rushing into any agreement with Xcel this quickly is bound to lead to regrets. Council must slow this process down, and involve Boulder citizens;
  • We will not even know what is in Xcel’s resource plan until they file it with the PUC in March of 2021. Voters cannot be asked to make an informed decision before we even know what Xcel will ask the PUC for;

It is not necessary to do this in 2020 just because Xcel wants us to. We might be throwing away 10 years of hard, expensive work for an outcome that will not meet our energy goals. We need to take enough time to allow Boulder citizens to really understand what we are going to be asked to vote on.

Passing any new franchise agreement with Xcel will depend on significant community support. Those of us that have campaigned for municipalization in the past will not support a franchise agreement that is is negotiated without public input and rushed past us to the ballot without adequate engagement of Boulder citizens.

Please consider slowing down and opening up the process so we can have an informed and beneficial process.
Peter Mayer
Allyn Feinberg
CoChairs PLAN-Boulder County

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