Boulder’s Climate Action Plan
Boulder’s Climate Action Plan, often referred to as the CAP, is a set of aggressive, city-funded programs and services designed to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.
- 80% Emissions Reduction by 2050
- 80% City organization emissions reduction by 2030
- 100% Renewable Electricity by 2030
- 100MW of local renewable generation by 2030
What is the CAP tax?
- The nation’s first voter-approved tax dedicated to addressing climate change
- Generates approximately $1.8 million per year
- Levied on city residents and businesses based on the amount of electricity they consume
- Tax rates are different depending on the sector. Annual average costs:
- Residential: $21
- Commercial: $94
- Industrial: $9,600
- Originally passed in 2006
- Extended in 2015 to continue through March 31, 2023
Read more about the history of the CAP tax .
Results of CAP-funded programs
- Approximately 250,000 to 750,000 cumulative metrics tons (MT) of avoided greenhouse gas emissions since 2007
- CAP tax has generated $17.3 million in revenue which has funded policies, programs, direct advising services and rebates to homes and businesses.
- CAP-funded programs have helped the community reduce GHG emissions 16% from 2005 levels
Read our CAP at a Glance handout to get a brief overview of the CAP tax and programs.
Progress reports of CAP-funded programs
CAP Tax in Detail
Frequently Asked Questions
The CAP tax funds programs and services to reduce GHG emissions by encouraging residents and businesses to reduce energy consumption, save money on energy costs over time, and minimize reliance on external energy sources. Programs and services are periodically evaluated and adapted to be most effective and meet the needs of the community.
C&I Building Efficiency
- EnergySmart and Partners for a Clean Environment (PACE) : In partnership with Boulder County, these programs provide rebates and one-on-one energy advising services to businesses.
- Building Performance Ordinance : Requirements for all large (> 20,000 ft2) commercial and industrial buildings to rate and report their energy usage and perform cost effective efficiency actions over time.
- Clean Energy Finance : Work with Boulder County to expand utilization of the Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing program, and to create other low interest financing options for energy projects.
- Net Zero Energy Codes (Commercial) : Every three years, update energy codes to ensure the city is on pathway to the goal of net zero energy codes for all new buildings by 2031. Continuous implementation, evaluation and improvement of energy codes.
Residential Demand Side Management
- SmartRegs : Requirements for energy efficiency (equivalent to the 2000 International Energy Conservation Code) in rental housing units, which account for over half of the Boulder’s housing stock. In 2018, most of these program costs are being covered by the city’s general fund, due to CAP Tax revenue shortages.
- Residential EnergySmart : Provides homeowners with energy advising services and rebates.
- Residential Electrification Pilot : Boulder has initiated a collaborative effort with 20 U.S. cities and major heat pump manufacturers to accelerate the transition from natural gas furnaces and water heaters to electric heat pumps that can be powered by renewables. Boulder has launched two pilot projects locally in partnership with the County:
- Comfort365 : Targeted advising and additional rebates for all electric air source heat pumps.
- Roadmap to Renewable Living : Provides homeowners with a comprehensive roadmap that displays financing strategies for bundling efficiency, electrification and rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system.
- Net Zero Energy Codes (Residential) : Every three years, update energy codes to ensure the city is on pathway to the goal of net zero energy codes for all new buildings by 2031. Continuous implementation, evaluation and improvement of energy codes.
Local Renewables, Electric Vehicles and Market Innovation
- Local solar programs: Our programs include providing grants for low-income residents and non-profits, as well as solar rebates (through EnergySmart) and a solar bulk purchasing program in partnership with Boulder County. Staff is now working on new strategies to develop more large scale solar within the city.
- Marijuana Energy Requirements : Continued tracking and enforcement of the requirements for marijuana business to offset 100% of their electricity consumption with renewable energy. Development of a new Energy Impact Offset Fund to use the offset payments to develop local renewable projects.
- Electric vehicle programs: Subsidizing electric vehicle charging stations and creating bulk purchasing programs for electric vehicles and bikes.
- Boulder Energy Challenge (BEC) : BEC was launched in June 2014 to support the development and commercialization of innovative emission-reducing technologies and strategies in Boulder. In that initial launch, the BEC funded all six finalist projects, totaling $337,500. The program was relaunched in 2017, and the challenge funded four projects, with $157,600 in total funding.
- Policy Work : Promoting legislative and regulatory changes necessary to achieve the city’s climate and energy goals.
- Energy Resilience : Implementing resilient energy systems to power the community’s critical energy needs.
- Administrative and overhead costs
- External communications and outreach to the community and other key stakeholders
- Program tracking and evaluation (including annual GHG Inventories)
- Memberships in professional organizations, regional/national/international coalitions, etc.
The average residential account pays approximately $21/year toward the CAP tax. Because the CAP tax is based on carbon consumption, payment depends on how much electricity each customer uses. The tax rate and average annual CAP tax per sector:
Current CAP Tax Rates
Electricity User Type
Average Annual Tax
Currently, Xcel Energy collects the tax for the city through its monthly customer utility billing. Customers who subscribe to wind- or solar-generated power through Xcel Energy's Renewable Connect program are not taxed for that portion of their electricity use. Xcel will no longer charge the CAP tax when the solar systems go into service. If the CAP tax is extended and during the new tax period the city begins operation of a municipal electric utility, the new utility could either continue collection of the tax under the current system or sunset the tax and fund efficiency and conservation programs through its rate structure or other means
Want to know more about the CAP tax?
Visit www.BoulderColorado.gov/Climate. Contact us via Inquire Boulder.
For billing questions, please contact Xcel Energy at (800) 895-4999