A path to improving safety, performance and reliability while reducing costs.

  1. Plan

    2021 - Summer 2023

  2. Design

    Spring 2023

  3. Community Engagement

    Fall 2023

  4. Implement

    Early 2024

Project Overview

The City of Boulder is purchasing more than 4,000 streetlights from Xcel Energy and converting lights to more efficient LEDs. This project will save costs, update technology, improve reliability and safety, and reduce carbon emissions.

Project Goals

High-performing and reliable streetlights

  • Smart – self-reports outages
  • Quality lighting
  • Structurally sound

Good stewardship of community funds and the environment

  • Efficient
  • Dimmable
  • Cost control
  • Energy and greenhouse gas reduction

Equitable infrastructure

  • Provides for the safety and comfort needs of all community members

Community Engagement

Community engagement is a key part of this project. Engagement opportunities were available in English and Spanish during 2023. Feedback received through online questionnaires, in-person events, stakeholders and other community groups will help inform the city's decision on streetlight color temperatures in 2024.

View a summary of the streetlight color temperatures our community cares about.

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Why convert streetlights?

Costs and Potential Savings

The city currently pays Xcel Energy for its streetlights. These costs have risen significantly. While the city has no way to control costs, it is responsible for all costs Xcel incurs.

The city can save money by acquiring the lights and bringing them into city control. The project has the potential to see a return on investment within nine years. The city can save or reinvest an estimated:

  • $1 million per year in operational and maintenance costs.
  • $13.6 million over 20 years.
  • As much as an additional $350,000 per year.

Emissions Savings

Since LED lights are much more efficient than the lights in current streetlights, the city estimates that by converting all city streetlights, it can reduce emissions by about 1,000 metric tons of carbon — which is roughly equivalent to taking 254 internal combustion engine vehicles off the road.

Reliability Improvements

Current streetlights don't automatically notify Xcel Energy when they are out. People must report an outage to get lights fixed or replaced. This system leads to unnecessary, prolonged outages. By purchasing the lights from Xcel, the city can convert them to new technology that automatically lets the city know when lights need repairs or replacement.


Streetlights include lights that are above the public right of way, such as public streets.

The project does not include area lights, which are lights over private property, such as at condos or parking lots.

There are about 5,100 streetlights in the City of Boulder. Xcel Energy owns and operates about 4,500 of them while the city owns and operates 600.

Many of the Xcel-owned streetlights use outdated technology, called High-Pressure Sodium or HSD lighting that is inefficient and provides a lower-quality light. Newer technology, called Light Emitting Diode or LEDs, are more efficient, are dimmable and provide a better light quality.

View the project timeline for details.

Color temperature is how warm or cool a light is, such as whether it appears yellower or bluer. LEDs come in a range of color temperatures.

Examples of warm and cool streetlighting

Examples of warm and cool streetlighting.

The city is using community engagement, technical data and best practices from other cities to decide on LEDs.

Most city-owned streetlights will be converted. A few city streetlights will be converted at a later time in the project due to additional complexities, including the types of streetlight fixtures. This includes Pearl Street streetlights.

The city recognizes that LED conversions may have an impact on people who use the street. Before installing new LEDs, the city will work to provide advanced notice to impacted areas.

There will be different impacts depending on the location:

  • Installations may temporarily impact streets, sidewalks, bike lanes and street parking. There may be moving lane closures on major roads.
  • In other locations, the city may need to install new electrical infrastructure for the separation or connection of lights in the right of way, which may impact private property.

Evaluating streetlight locations is not part of this project phase and will take place during a future city process. Currently, this work is anticipated to begin in 2025.

Evaluating the number of streetlights is not part of this project phase and will take place during a future city process. Currently, this work is anticipated to begin in 2025.

The current estimated cost to acquire the lights from Xcel is $3.6 million. The city would invest an additional $3.4 million to convert the lights to LEDs. Costs may change and will be updated after the city receives bids in 2024.

Given the cost savings associated with city ownership, reduced energy costs and other efficiencies, the city estimates it can save more than $1 million per year in operational and maintenance costs. Any additional savings, which could be as much as $350,000 per year, will be reinvested into streetlights. The project would get a return on investment within nine years. Over 20 years, the city plans to save $13.6 million.

The city will reinvest savings into streetlights.

Converting streetlights to city ownership and operation will support community goals reflected in the Sustainability, Equity and Resilience Framework PDF, including toward safety, saving money and reducing emissions.

Funds saved from the acquisition will support streetlight maintenance and may be invested in future transportation improvements.

Project Timeline

  • Fall 2021: City completes system inventory and separation study.
    • Determine quantity, location and ownership of streetlights in Boulder.
    • Develop initial plan for separation.
    • Develop initial cost estimates.
  • Spring 2022: City reviews separation study and refines plan.
    • Develop and assess financing options.
    • Develop plans to address:
      • Technology options.
      • Long-term operations and maintenance.
  • Summer 2022:
    • In July, city staff present recommendations to City Council during a Study Session.
  • Summer 2022 to fall 2023:
    • Negotiate purchase and sale agreement with Xcel Energy.
    • Finalize details of potential acquisition.
    • In August, staff provide an update to City Council. Council directs staff to proceed with purchase of streetlights.
  • Summer to fall 2023: Community engagement on streetlight color temperature selection.
  • Early 2024: Complete acquisition; assess and select LED color temperature; invite bids for LED conversions and select a contractor.
  • 2024-2025: Begin converting streetlights to selected LED color temperature. This process is anticipated to take two years.
  • 2025 or later: Evaluate streetlight locations.

Watch the City Council Discussion

July 2022 – Based on a study, staff recommended moving forward with city acquisition and conversion of Xcel streetlights. City Council expressed support.

August 2023 – City Council directs staff to purchase the lights during the 2023 budget process.

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