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 in 2023. 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

Provide Your Input

The city invites feedback from all community members to help decide on how streetlights will look in the future. Share your feedback on your preferred streetlight color temperature via a short online questionnaire, open through Nov. 1.

View examples in person  

The community can also view the streetlight color temperature options in person at two locations. Streetlight examples are available to view now, along with signage with a QR code to access a questionnaire. Locations include:

— Spruce Pool for residential street options.

— South of the 28th Street and Iris Avenue intersection along 28th Street for major roadway options.

Stay connected

Sign up for the city’s Climate Initiatives and Transportation and Mobility e-newsletters for monthly updates on projects and other relevant news.

Why convert streetlights?

Costs and Potential Savings

The city currently pays about $1.4 million annually to Xcel Energy for its streetlights. These costs have risen significantly over the past 30 years, and the city has no mechanisms for cost control but is responsible for all costs Xcel incurs. This current system means that the city can save money by acquiring the lights and bringing them into city control.

The 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. 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 support streetlight maintenance and may be invested in future transportation improvements. The project would get a return on investment within nine years. Over 20 years, the city plans to save $13.6 million.

Emissions Savings

Since LED lights are much more efficient than their HPS counterparts, 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.


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.

The transition to LEDs will take place in 2023 and is anticipated to continue through 2025.

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.

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.

Converting streetlights to city ownership and operation will support community goals reflected in the Sustainability, Equity and Resilience Framework, 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.

Streetlight Maps

Streetlights owned and operated by the City of Boulder within city limits.

Streetlights owned and operated by the City of Boulder.

A map of Boulder showing the location of more than 4,000 streetlights operated by Xcel Energy

Streetlights owned and operated by Xcel Energy

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

July 2022: 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

August 2023:

  • Staff provide an update to City Council. Council directs staff to proceed with purchase of streetlights.

Summer-Fall 2023: Community Engagement

  • Streetlight color temperature selection

Fall 2023: Complete acquisition

    Early 2024: Begin conversion to LED lights

    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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