Working With Xcel Energy
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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 2010, Boulder City Council decided not to enter into a new franchise agreement with Xcel Energy. Instead, the city has since explored municipalization of the electric utility as an alternative to taking electric service from Xcel Energy. Though the city's analysis has indicated that municipalization is a viable path to reaching the city's various climate, energy and local control goals, the city has remained open to working with Xcel Energy to find an alternative to municipalization. This page describes the city's efforts to work with Xcel Energy to find such an alternative.
2016 to 2017 Efforts to Work with Xcel Energy
After the city initiated the process to separate a city-only electric distribution system from Xcel's system at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, the city and Xcel Energy began new, formal settlement discussions. Beginning in January 2016, these negotiations were announced publicly in June 2016. Each party negotiated in good faith with the hope of arriving at a settlement could address the city’s goals.
In March 2017, the city released information about two proposals offered by Xcel Energy that could end litigation related to the city’s ongoing effort to create a municipal electric utility. Broadly, Xcel put forward two proposals: 1) a new partnership between the city and Xcel. This partnership would create a city and Xcel Energy working board that would strive to reach Boulder’s goal of achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2030; and 2) an option for the city to buy Xcel’s system outright at a price and under conditions ultimately set by Xcel Energy. These proposals are available in the March 31, 2017 memo.
City Council held two public meetings to consider Xcel's proposals, an April 5 Study Session and April 17 Public Hearing. Materials and video from these meetings are available on the Council Action page.
On April 17, 2017, Boulder City Council rejected each of Xcel's settlement proposals and decided to continue the process of separation at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The city remains open to working with Xcel in the future.
2012 to 2013 Boulder-Xcel Energy Partnership Task Force
Since 2005, when the city and Xcel Energy began discussing renewing the Franchise Agreement, the city has asked Xcel Energy to help partner on ways the city could achieve its energy future goals. While a partnership hasn't been achieved, the city has repeatedly said that Xcel Energy is welcome to offer suggestions on ways we could all work together on forming 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 PUC approval, and some would require changes to state law. All options would require Xcel to work with the city to change the status quo of electric utility operations.
Since 2012, city staff has met with executives from Xcel Energy on several occasions to develop a process for discussing a partnership to create the utility of the future. In March 2013, Xcel Energy proposed the creation of a task force that would engage with Xcel Energy executives, city staff and other experts when needed, to discuss possible paths to forming such a partnership. Xcel Energy and the city jointly selected Boulder residents and representatives of Boulder businesses to serve on the task force. These residents came from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, including business, university, federal labs, energy and nonprofit communities, and had a wide array of skills.
The group met nearly every week between April 9 and July 9, 2013. It discussed goals, partnership principles, and potential partnership structures. During the discussions, it became clear that the ideas that group members were proposing were not acceptable to Xcel Energy. The company told the group that it believes that developing partnerships with individual communities is not the way to address Boulder’s goals. The company would prefer to meet with customers on a more regional level and work on developing products and services that communities interested in green energy could purchase. As a result of these differing viewpoints, the group suggested that it would be more effective for Xcel Energy to present a proposal for consideration by the Boulder public and City Council.
In early July 2013, Xcel Energy presented a proposal that outlined a combination of possible programs and services it felt could help Boulder reach its goals and that could also be offered to its other customers. At a meeting on July 31, the taskforce agreed to continue its work, revising its mission to focus on products and services that Xcel Energy could offer across its Colorado service territory. Xcel Energy was slated to present this package to City Council in June 2014.
The Boulder-Xcel Energy Partnership Task Force decided to disband March 12, 2014 when it became apparent that the City of Boulder and Xcel Energy would not be able to reach consensus about revisions to the group’s operating agreement. That agreement addressed how information and documents presented in connection with the Task Force would be protected from use in future litigation.
Because of the expertise gained during the Task Force process, members of the group felt it was important to remain engaged with each of the parties, but would do so separately on parallel paths. Xcel Energy announced that it would not present its package of products and services to the Boulder City Council in June 2014, but instead, would present proposals to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
Read the press release here for more information on the task force's decision to disband.
White Paper - Options with Xcel Energy (2012)
- Sanders (Skip) Arnold - Executive Director of Energy Outreach Colorado; former VP of customer care for Public Service Company of Colorado (Xcel)
- Tom Asprey - retired electrical engineer; former Hewlett Packard and Intel electrical engineer
- Eric Blank - Attorney; former director of the Energy Project for the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies (now Western Resource Advocates)
- Ann Livingston - Director of Market Development for Snugg Home, a developer of energy efficiency analysis software; former Boulder County Sustainability Coordinator
- Pete Lorenzen - Vice President, Global Transition, Transformation and Quality for GTS and Senior Location Manager at IBM- Boulder
- Sean Maher - Executive Director of Downtown Boulder Inc.
- Matt McMullen - Director of Facilities Management and Sustainability, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
- Dr. Diana Moss - VP, Director and Senior research Fellow of the American Antitrust Institute, specializing in the economics of antitrust, regulation, and energy and natural resources; adjunct professor in the CU Economics Department
- John Nielson - Energy Program Director for Western Resource Advocates
- John Tayer - President and CEO, Boulder Chamber of Commerce; former Director of Policy Development and Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator for the City of Boulder; former member, RTD Board of Directors
- Will Toor - Director of the transportation program for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP); former Boulder County Commissioner; former Mayor of Boulder
- Sam Weaver - Business Operations, Cool Energy, Inc. ; member, Board of Directors, Colorado Clean Energy Development Authority; City of Boulder Planning Board member
2005 to 2012 Efforts to Work with Xcel Energy
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.