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Working With Xcel Energy

Happening Now: A potential settlement agreement with Xcel Energy


On May 12, 2020, Boulder City Council announced that the city and Xcel Energy have reopened negotiations that may provide an alternative to creating a city-run, community-owned electric utility. On July 28, the city and Xcel Energy announced that they had reached a potential settlement.

This page describes the current and past efforts to work with Xcel Energy. For more details on the 2020 potential settlement, please read the joint press release and visit the potential agreement page. Documents detailing the settlement and accompanying agreements are available there.


The community has always been a key driving force in shaping the city’s energy future. This was especially true as the city and Xcel Energy re-entered negotiations.

Phase 1 of Engagement: Hearing from you

The City of Boulder hosted a series of virtual engagement opportunities for the public to provide feedback on ongoing negotiations with Xcel Energy.

The sessions provided Boulder residents the opportunity to give feedback on how the two parties might find paths to achieving the community’s energy future goals  . They took place on:

Phase 2 of Engagement: Participating in the City Council Process

City Council conducted a public hearing on the agreements on Aug. 20.

The goals that guided the city's approach in ongoing negotiations are:


Renewable and clean fuel sources should be maximized as much as possible, as quickly as possible, minimizing both short- and long-term environmental impacts and maximizing energy independence over time.


Energy should be generated locally or within the region to the maximum extent feasible, reducing reliance on external fuel sources; customers should be able to manage and reduce their energy use as directly and effectively as possible; and energy service companies should be empowered to compete and innovate within a diverse and robust local energy economy. 


Customers should have more direct control and involvement in decisions about their energy, including opportunities to invest in their long-term energy needs and to have a say in energy investments made on their behalf.


Our energy future must ensure competitive rates, balancing short-term and long-term interests.


Our energy future should ensure a stable, safe and reliable energy supply.


Our energy future should maximize local renewable resources. 

In short, the community is. City Council has placed the potential agreement on the November ballot. 

Most of the time, cities have franchise agreements with public utilities operating within their boundaries. Past franchise agreements between the city and Xcel Energy provided the company the right to use the city’s streets, public places and public easements to serve Boulder customers. Franchise Agreements dictate the long-term relationship between the utility and the city and can provide a platform for unique partnership opportunities that may help the city’s progress toward its energy goals.

Since 2010, the city and Xcel have operated without a franchise agreement while the city explored the creation of a city-run electric utility.

Franchise agreements always require voter approval. 


Past Efforts to Work with Xcel Energy

Throughout the history of municipalization, the city and Xcel have engaged several times to discuss potential agreements. The accordion menu provides information on efforts prior to 2020.

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, 2017 Study Session and April 17, 2017 Public Hearing. 

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.

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.

White Paper pdf 

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.

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.


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1101 Arapahoe Ave.

Boulder, CO 80302


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Steve Catanach

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