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Partnership With Xcel Energy

Partnership With Xcel Energy

Partnership with Xcel Energy (2010 to 2016)

One of the options for achieving the city's goal of decarbonizing our electricity supply is a partnership with Xcel Energy. You can learn about those efforts below. 

Xcel Energy is Boulder’s Current Monopoly Electric Provider

Electric customers in Boulder are served by Xcel Energy. Since Colorado is a regulated state, customers have no choice in who provides them with power. For many years, the city had a franchise agreement with Xcel—this agreement granted Xcel the right to use the streets and rights-of-way in Boulder as part of providing utility services.

In 2005, the city and Xcel began discussing the renewal of the 20-year franchise agreement, which was set to expire in 2010. The city also began to explore municipalization (creating a city-owned and -operated electric utility. In 2008, that analysis was suspended in order to focus on Xcel’s SmartGridCity pilot and negotiate a series of side agreements to the franchise that would help meet Boulder’s climate and energy goals. More about that process is available in a 2010 council study session memo.

Although the city initially believed that progress was possible using side agreements, it did not occur. The franchise agreement was allowed to expire—by state law, Xcel must provide electric service even in the absence of a franchise agreement. Instead, in 2010, Boulder voters approved a “utility occupation tax” that substituted for the franchise fee that funds general city services, as well as funds the city’s exploration of municipalization.

Moving Beyond a Buyer-Seller Arrangement

The city has remained open to partnership with Xcel, and has continued to offer suggestions on how both organizations could partner to form the electric utility of the future.

In December 2012, city staff prepared a paper that outlined possible ways Xcel Energy could choose to partner with Boulder to meet the community’s Energy Future goals. The options included many alternatives to municipalization. Most of these options would require Colorado Public Utility Commission approval. Some would require changes to state law. All of them would require Xcel to work with the city to effect a change in the status quo of electric utility operations.

Since 2012, city staff has met with executives from Xcel on several occasions to develop a process for discussing a partnership to create the utility of the future. In March 2013, Xcel proposed the creation of a task force that would engage with Xcel executives, city staff and other experts when needed, to discuss possible paths to forming such a partnership. Xcel and the city jointly selected Boulder residents and representatives of Boulder businesses to serve on the task force. You can read more about the task force, which disbanded in March 2014, here.

While committed to exploration of municipalization, the city continues to be open to creative ideas that would enable a productive partnership with Xcel. To learn more about the city's efforts to work with Xcel Energy, take a look at this document pdf recording instances city staff asked Xcel to provide their own proposals or alternative plans. 

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