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Boulder City Council Votes to Continue Pursuit of Municipalization

April 19, 2017
Council rejects settling with Xcel Energy.

The Boulder City Council on Monday voted 6-3 to keep moving forward with its effort to form a city-owned electric utility. The city will take over electric service from investor-owned Xcel Energy, rather than to pursue a settlement with Xcel.

According to a report from Public Power Daily, the City Council reviewed two settlement proposals from Xcel that the city leaders could have placed on the November ballot. Both proposals — one to create a partnership between the investor-owned utility and the city, and another to let Boulder buy Xcel’s system, for a price of up to $900 million — would end all litigation between the two parties. The other option was to reject both settlement proposals and go to an eight-day hearing before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that is scheduled to start on April 26. That is the option that the city leaders chose.

The crowd attend the hearing was overflowing and comments lasted for three hours. The public comments lasted for three hours and “were overwhelmingly in favor of staying the PUD course and rejecting the current settlement paths,” the Boulder Daily Camera reported.

Council members acknowledge that the city's prospects in court aren't great, the Camera reported; the Public Utilities Commission has expressed significant concern with the city's application for the transfer of Xcel assets. Xcel Energy and IBM, which owns a large data center in Boulder, have filed motions with the PUC asking it to dismiss the city’s application. The PUC has said it would consider those motions by today.


The Colorado city of 100,000, located 35 miles northwest of Denver, has sought for about a decade to find a way to reduce the carbon content of its energy supply and to add more renewable resources to its power supply — and has been investigating the option of creating a local public power utility as one way of accomplishing those goals, the Public Power Daily reported. 

Voters in Boulder considered this topic, or related issues, in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014. In each of those four elections, a majority of voters wanted the city to pursue the creation of a local electric utility.

Over the last six years, the city has developed detailed plans to acquire Xcel’s assets, but the private utility has opposed those plans, resulting in legal fights between the two. Xcel’s two settlement proposals were reached after 15 months of negotiations.

An updated analysis released by the city last November found that creating a public power utility would be cost effective over 20 years. Even with conservative estimates, “a city-operated utility could meet each of the financial charter metrics approved by voters in 2011 and 2013 and would allow the city to reach at least 80 percent renewable electricity by 2030,” Boulder said.

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