Boulder Continues Push to Create Municipal Utility

June 17, 2014 By Karen Henry

valmont-plant-energy-manageBoulder, Colo., officials recently submitted a proposal to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to transfer renewable energy credits from pre-existing solar contracts to Xcel Energy and assume the utility’s solar garden contracts within the city in exchange for its residents being able to continue to participate in Xcel’s solar energy-efficiency incentive programs until the city decides to launch its own utility, according to an article in the Daily Camera.

The proposal is in response to Xcel’s January PUC filing in which it asked to limit Boulder customers’ participation in its Solar Rewards program and not allow new community solar gardens to be built in Boulder.

Xcel also sought to cap the participation of Boulder customers in various energy-efficiency incentives.

Boulder’s interest in forming its own utility began in 2011, when city residents voted to look further into whether it should municipalize Xcel’s assets within city limits, according to Forbes. The city is now looking into purchasing assets outside of city limits. In January 2014, Boulder officials sent a letter of intent to Xcel to inform the utility of the assets that it would like to acquire so that it can provide electric service to the city’s 100,000 residents.

On May 6, the Boulder City Council voted unanimously in favor of creating a power and light utility. In response, Xcel Energy filed a lawsuit on June 3, asking the Boulder District Court to undo the formation of the utility, even though it is currently a paper entity only. Xcel said the formation of the utility is “premature” and that Boulder has not met the charter requirements, demonstrating it can offer electric service at similar or lower rates to Xcel, with similar or better reliability, while offering much greener power that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, the Daily Camera reported. The Xcel complaint went on to state that the city first needs to determine exactly which assets it can acquire and how the system will be separated from Xcel’s.

Although the city has yet to acquire any of the Xcel Energy assets required to run a utility, creating the entity gives Boulder the power to issue bonds to finance the initiative should the city decide to follow through with operating its own utility, according the Boulder County Business Report.

The PUC is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Aug. 21 and 22.

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