Sept. 28, 2016 - City Moves Forward in Bid to Create Local Electric Utility
Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016
Sarah Huntley, Media Relations, 303-441-3155
City moves forward in bid to create local electric utility
Today, the City of Boulder filed a supplemental application with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) asking for approval to transfer the electric system assets necessary to operate a municipal electric utility. These assets are currently owned by Public Service Company of Colorado, also known as Xcel Energy.
Boulder’s application seeks to acquire only the facilities necessary to deliver electricity to customers within the city limits, achieve the community’s energy goals and meet the requirements added to the City Charter by Boulder voters in 2011 and 2013. Boulder is not seeking to transfer any generation (power plants) or transmission assets that serve the city, nor is it seeking to acquire any assets used exclusively to serve Xcel customers.
The PUC has already agreed that the city has the right to create a local utility. The central component of the city’s supplemental application – and of the PUC’s oversight – is the proposed separation plan. Boulder’s separation plan will allow the city to provide reliable electric service to all customers within city limits while maintaining Xcel Energy’s ability to serve customers in unincorporated Boulder County.
This application supplements an original application filed by the city in July 2015. In December 2015, the PUC ruled that the city cannot seek to acquire assets that exclusively serve electric customers outside the city. The PUC also required the city to submit a plan that did not require Xcel to share facilities that exclusively serve out-of-city customers with a new city-owned electric utility. In that same ruling, however, the PUC ordered the city and Xcel to engage in a discovery process that provided the city access to important Xcel data that had not been available to the city previously. The city used this information to conduct an analysis that resulted in the current, much more technically detailed application.
“We believe the new application will fully comply with the PUC direction we received in December and maintain important safety and reliability standards for all customers, whether they take service from a new municipal electric utility in Boulder or live outside Boulder and continue to take service from Xcel Energy,” said Heather Bailey, executive director of Energy Strategy and Electric Utility Development. “At the same time, this plan allows Boulder to move forward with its vision for an innovative and responsive local electric utility that will have more freedom to leverage clean energy resources and technology, support the emergence of related businesses and ensure that our whole community shares in the benefits.”
All of the testimony filed by the city and the application are available (proceeding number 15A-0589E). The filing also includes technical engineering analysis and critical energy infrastructure information. The public version of the testimony does not include those documents because releasing sensitive energy infrastructure information could jeopardize regional and national security, and maintaining confidentiality of other information is a condition under which the city received the information from Xcel.
In addition to detailing how a city electric utility would ensure reliability, safety and quality, the application also makes clear that the city is planning a transitional approach to its power supply. The application proposes that the city utility would be a wholesale customer of Xcel Energy for a limited period of time. By gradually reducing its demand for power from Xcel in coordination with Xcel’s increasing need for electric resources to serve customers outside of Boulder, the city would facilitate a smooth transition for all customers. The resources released by Boulder could instead provide power to other customers, avoiding the expense of developing new energy supplies. Even with this phased approach, the city will likely be able to increase renewable sources of energy and decrease emissions much more quickly than it would by remaining a retail customer of Xcel.
The city’s filing does not in any way reflect negatively upon the efforts of the city and Xcel Energy to reach a settlement that could result in a partnership to achieve their joint energy and climate goals. The negotiating team has been meeting regularly since January and have made progress on a wide range of issues. The Boulder City Council has been kept informed of the progress of the negotiations throughout the process. Council will be meeting in executive session to discuss the current proposal during October. While the negotiations progress, the city has been moving forward with municipalization. Today’s filing is the next step in the process and reflects the parallel paths that the city is exploring.
The Boulder Energy Future staff team will host an open house to provide more details about the filing and the municipalization project on Oct. 10 at the Boulder Jewish Community Center (6007 Oreg Ave.) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. To read the filing, find out more about the open house or learn about the energy future project, more generally, please visit www.BoulderEnergyFuture.com.