Boulder & Xcel Energy Negotiating To End City Bid To Form Municipal Utility

Boulder Flatirons shutterstock_292579877
Last summer, Boulder requested the Colorado PUC transfer assets from Xcel to allow the city to serve customers outside the incorporated lines.  The request was followed by legal challenges concerning using infrastructure outside city boundaries.
Boulder leaders last week issued a statement acknowledging discussions with Xcel, and focused on the idea that any agreement would give the municipality greater say in the utility’s investments — presumably an acknowledgement that the city wants more renewables used to serve customers.
“The parties are discussing possible terms, including ways they could partner to support each other’s shared objectives and plans related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable energy, increasing electric customer choice and program offerings, and supporting local pilot projects that would test innovative solutions associated with electricity generation, delivery and management. The city is also interested in having a greater voice in investments made to the infrastructure that serves Boulder. Under the terms of any settlement, Xcel Energy would continue to provide electric service to all customers within Boulder city limits.”

According to the city’s statement, the Boulder Charter requires voter approval of any franchise agreement between the city and Xcel Energy. Discussions are anticipated to continue over the next few months. If the parties agree to formally present a proposed settlement to City Council prior to late July, the question of an agreement could be put on the November 2016 ballot.

“Both Boulder and Xcel Energy share numerous objectives and goals,” said David Eves, president of Xcel Energy in Colorado in the statement. “We believe working together we can take advantage of each other’s strengths and plans to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase renewable energy and provide more customer choice and programs, which could serve as a roadmap for other communities in Colorado and the nation.”

The Daily Camera reports the municipality has spent $10.4 million on its bid to form a municipal utility, with $2.7 million spent on municipalization staff alone. Expenses covered in the spending include consulting services, salary, benefits office space and supplies.

Under the terms of any eventual settlement, Xcel Energy will continue to provide electric service to all customers within Boulder city limits.

“While we are continuing to evaluate the company’s proposals as they are filed with the Public Utilities Commission, we respect the recent steps Xcel Energy has taken to increase renewable energy sources in its new plan and revisit some of the regulatory limitations that make this challenging in Colorado,” said city manager Jane Brautigam. “This makes good environmental and economic sense.”

Should a proposed settlement be presented to the City Council before late July, the question of an agreement could be put on the November 2016 ballot. If a settlement occurred later, it could be put on the November 2017 ballot or on a special election ballot in the interim.

“What the city has wanted all these years, in my opinion, and what I’ve wanted all these years,” Weaver said, “is for us to drastically reduce emissions from our electric supply,” said councilman Sam Weaver.

Image via Shutterstock

1 thought on “Boulder & Xcel Energy Negotiating To End City Bid To Form Municipal Utility”

  1. Thanks for the story Glenn, but please be careful about headlines and giving the impression that Boulder has decided to end its municipalization bid. Nothing could be further from the truth….

    Boulder is actively pursuing the municipalization option and will likely make its next filing at the Colorado PUC later this summer. At the same time, the City is holding discussions with Xcel to see if Xcel can/will be able to help us meet our climate and clean energy/decarbonization goals quicker and with appropriate safeguards for the future and the planet.

    Many of us are sceptical that Xcel can/will be prepared to build a truly new relationship with its franchise communities that involves rapid decarbonization, decentralization, democratization and commitment to a competitive renewable energy market–but we are certainly willing to see.

    Also–it is important to remember that every year Boulder sends over $20 million a year to Xcel in the form of after-tax net income, or about 10 times as much as it is spending per year on the exploration of municipalization. We’ve had several elections and the community has consistently supported spending a few dollars a month per person to see whether we can’t do better than the 77% fossil fuel based electricity (54% coal, 23% natural gas) that Xcel is currently providing to our very climate conscious community.

    Anyone who wants to know more about what is going on in Boulder should feel free to be in touch.

    Leslie Glustrom (one of the many citizen leaders of the Boulder effort)
    lglustrom at

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