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Energy Future and Climate Commitment

Summary

Recognizing this is a critical time for our environment and our community for local climate action, Boulder has committed to transition to a clean energy economy and lifestyle in ways that enhance our community’s resilience and support a vital and equitable economy. Transitioning to clean, local and renewable energy is our best opportunity to make a positive impact on climate change. Work on Boulder’s Energy Future and Climate Commitment is organized into three primary work areas: Climate Commitment, Municipalization, and Regional Collaboration. 

Status and Potential Next Steps

Climate Commitment 

In December 2016, City Council formally adopted goals to guide Boulder’s climate action efforts, including reducing community-wide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050; reducing emissions from city operations 80 percent below 2008 levels by 2030; and achieving 100 percent renewable electricity community-wide by 2030. The adopted goals also include progress indicators and targets for local renewable energy generation for key milestone years.

In 2018, the three overarching efforts related to Climate Commitment are 1) exploring alternative options to the Climate Action Plan (CAP) Tax, 2) creating a five-year action plan for the Climate Commitment, and 3) providing the biennial (every two years) update to council on progress against the goals.

Climate Commitment – Core Climate and Energy-related Programs

In 2018, staff will continue to implement and improve the following core climate and energy programs:

  • Building Performance Ordinance: Continue to achieve 100 percent compliance as more buildings are phased into the requirements (for energy reporting and efficiency in commercial and industrial buildings).
  • Community Engagement: Build community partnerships and continue community engagement efforts.
  • Energy Codes: Implementation and continued training for staff and the building community on current codes; begin development of next update (2019) of energy codes.
  • EnergySmart and Partners for a Clean Environment (PACE): Partner with Boulder County to provide rebates and advising services to homes and businesses.
  • Marijuana Energy Requirements: Continued tracking and enforcement of the requirements for marijuana business to offset 100 percent of their electricity consumption with renewable energy; staff will also explore the possibility of updating the ordinance language to reflect long term goals for the program.
  • SmartRegs: Work toward 100 percent compliance in the final year of implementation of the requirements for energy efficiency in rental housing.
  • Universal Zero Waste Ordinance: Reduce landfill emissions through the implementation of this ordinance.

Climate Commitment – Energy Pilot Projects

In 2018, staff plans to continue to work on the following key energy pilot projects:

  • Resilient Energy Infrastructure Pilot Project: Complete an energy resilience planning initiative supported by a Department of Energy (DOE) Resilient Electricity Delivery Infrastructure grant that supports cities in developing projects that increase facility and community resilience through infrastructure.
  • Natural Gas Replacement Project: Strategy development to support the conversion of residential natural gas appliances like water heaters and furnaces to efficient electric models.
  • Boulder Energy Challenge (BEC): BEC supports the development and commercialization of innovative emission-reducing technologies and strategies in Boulder. In 2018, staff will explore external public and private partnerships to keep this program running since the CAP Tax budget can no longer support the BEC.
  • Energy Impact Offset Fund (EIOF): To provide a local offset fund for the Marijuana (MJ) Energy Offset Requirement, the city created a local EIOF in partnership with Boulder County in 2017. In the future, the fund will be expanded to other uses such as compliance with other energy ordinances, or voluntary carbon offsets. Eventually, the fund will be utilized to develop clean energy projects within city and county limits.
  • Solar Work: Implement a comprehensive solar strategy to provide a roadmap to meet the local Climate Commitment’s renewable energy generation goals.
  • Electric Vehicle (EV) Work: Develop near- and long-term electric vehicle strategy related to the development of charging infrastructure, policy and code.

Climate Commitment – Other Action Areas

Ecosystems

The warming now taking place in the Boulder area associated with climate change will have significant impacts on the composition and function of local ecosystems—both urban and wildland.  These ecosystem changes will impact both the livability and energy use of the community. 2018 was designated for a major emphasis on ecosystems and will align with the Urban Forest Management Strategy and Open Space Master Plan.

Resources

Resource use is the third major focus area of climate action outlined in the city's Climate Commitment, and resource use represents up to 40 percent of the community's indirect climate impacts. The focus of action in this area is to reduce the emissions associated with resource use—both in the direct production of goods and services and in their disposal.  2019 has been designated as a yearlong community focus on this topic with possible initiatives associated with local food production, waste utilization, and other local resource use opportunities. 2018 focus areas will be on circular economy and resource use, as well as the 6400 Arapahoe site. During 2018, the city will work with the community and stakeholders to refine the next stage developments at the site to optimize its use and support of emissions reducing resource utilization opportunities.

Municipalization

The municipalization project began in 2010 as an effort to examine options that could provide Boulder residents, businesses and institutions with electricity that is increasingly clean, reliable and competitively priced while allowing for more local decision-making and control. After several years of analysis and community input, in 2013 City Council directed staff to move forward with activities to launch and operate a local electric utility, including legal and regulatory actions and development and implementation of a detailed transition plan to achieve the city’s goals. In 2015, Boulder began the regulatory process at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC), filing an application for the transfer of certain assets owned by the Public Service Company of Colorado (Xcel) to the city. In September 2017, the PUC issued a ruling on the city’s application creating a path forward to proceed with municipalization.

On Nov. 7, Boulder voters approved a measure to fund municipalization for the next three years. The results of the election reaffirmed the community’s commitment, and the continued exploration of the formation of a municipal electric utility.  This funding will enable the community to make a more informed decision in a final vote on forming a municipal utility.

In 2018, the city will continue with the steps needed to determine the actual cost of forming an electric utility which include preparing for condemnation, engineering design work, filing the Network Integrated Transmission Service (NITS) application, power supply evaluation and negotiation, implementation of the municipalization transition work plan and other start-up activities necessary to launch and operate an electric utility.

In 2019 or 2020, city staff will return to council and the community for a go/no go decision on proceeding with municipalization after the condemnation value and separation construction bids have been received. 

Municipalization - Transition Plan Update

A transition work plan has been developed that will guide the change from an Xcel-run system to a city-operated local electric utility, should the city acquire the utility. The plan identifies the various tasks, interrelationships and schedule for transition work activities and addresses multiple components such as power supply acquisition, system operations and maintenance, software development and integration, customer interface, and financing. In 2018, the city will continue to update the plan on a regular basis as  issues are addressed, tasks are refined, and work is completed.

Other PUC-Related Work

Until the city owns its electric system, staff will continue to play an active role in Xcel applications to the PUC and anticipates additional filings in 2018 and 2019 that will directly affect the Energy Future and Climate Commitment goals.

Regional Collaboration

While meeting our Climate Commitment is vitally important for Boulder, our actions help make up a patchwork of regional, state, national and global climate action. A regional approach allows diverse communities to pool ideas and resources, make faster progress toward mitigation and resilience goals, and attract more state and federal help. Boulder’s regional efforts related to climate and sustainability strive to share expertise, leverage resources and advance comprehensive solutions to facilitate more coordinated, effective solutions while raising the profile of regional leadership.

Moving forward, staff will continue to prioritize strong collaboration opportunities with key governmental partners such as CU Boulder, Boulder County and BVSD.  Staff will also focus on creating new opportunities with businesses and organizations. To support a state-wide approach to climate action, Boulder will work closely with key organizations such as the Colorado Communities for Climate Action and the Colorado Compact in 2018.

Council Action

  • April Study Session: Update on Climate Commitment progress, discussion of city policy on Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), and proposed pathway to achieve climate goals.
  • Information Packets (IPs) providing quarterly budget and transition work plan updates on Municipalization and updates and annual reports on core programs as needed.
  • Quarterly briefings, or updates as needed, to council on municipalization, based on litigation schedules. 

Contact

Heather Bailey, Executive Director, Energy Strategy and Electric Utility Development [email protected], 303-441-1923

Kendra Tupper, Chief Sustainability Officer, [email protected], 303-441-3434

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