The City of Boulder today released a 38-page report detailing the results of extensive research into the possibility of creating a city-owned and operated electric utility. The evaluation looked at a total of six options for meeting the community’s Energy Future goals. One is a baseline evaluation of staying with Xcel Energy with no change to the way it operates. The other five are options predicated on the city creating its own utility, which would be free from regulations that can limit innovation and customization.

power plant

The results show that there are several forms a new utility could take that don’t require trade-offs among the community’s core values. The Boulder community has said it wants cleaner and greener energy with rates and reliability comparable to or better than those provided by Xcel Energy. The community is also seeking more local control and a voice in decision-making, as well as an opportunity to enhance economic vitality by providing a test bed for emerging technology and a low-cost, high-reliability environment in which businesses can thrive.

When Boulder voters approved the continued exploration of a municipal utility in November 2011, they set limiting requirements in the Charter that must be met before City Council could proceed. These included provisions related to rates, revenue sufficiency and reliability, as well as plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase renewable sources of energy.

Specific Findings

Under some of the options analyzed, a municipal electric utility would meet the Charter metrics and have a high likelihood of being able to:

·         Offer all three major customer classes (residential, commercial and industrial) lower rates than what they would pay Xcel, not just on day one, as required by the Charter, but on average over 20 years;

·         Maintain or exceed current levels of system reliability and emergency response, and, if the community chose to, use future investments to enhance dependability;

·         Reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent from current levels and exceed the Kyoto Protocol target in year one;

·         Obtain 54 percent or more of its electricity from renewable resources; and

·         Create a model public electric utility with leading-edge innovations in reliability, energy efficiency, renewable energy, related economic development and customer service.

The report also examines the impact that a variety of stranded cost and acquisition cost rulings could have on rates and revenue requirements over 20 years.

The full memo, with all attachments, is available at

Process and Participation

“We are excited to share the results of this detailed analysis with City Council and our community. We believe the findings demonstrate that a municipal utility could be good for consumers, good for Boulder businesses and good for our planet,” said Heather Bailey, executive director of Energy Strategy and Electric Utility Development. “We look forward to an informed conversation over the next couple of month about how best to proceed.”

Bailey said she is especially grateful for the participation of more than 50 community members, many of whom have industry expertise, who donated their time to serve on working groups. These groups helped to ensure that a variety of perspectives was included and that all modeling was based on reasonable assumptions and data.

“This has been a community-wide review process, and this has greatly enhanced the quality and integrity of our report,” Bailey said. “I wish to thank everyone who has played a role in this direct way, as well as the countless members of the public who have shared their thoughts and concerns with me over the past year.”

An Xcel Energy Partnership Alternative?

While the city is committed to exploring ways to achieve “the electric utility of the future,” it has acknowledged that there might be ways to do so short of creating its own utility – in the form of a new partnership with the existing electric provider, Xcel Energy.

In December, the city released a paper that outlined a variety of ideas that could achieve the community’s goals if Xcel Energy is interested. The city has since spoken with officials from the current utility several times, asking them to identify which of the suggestions they would be willing to consider, as well as any innovative approaches the company might like to propose. Xcel officials have said they are open to a dialogue but have not yet come forward with specifics about what ideas they would like to discuss.

The framework for considering how the city should proceed includes the possibility of modeling an Xcel partnership option, when and if additional details become available. There are, in the analysis released today, also at least two options that might be achievable with the participation of a collaborative and willing energy partner.

“What we are looking to do is move beyond a 19th century approach to providing energy and create a forward-looking, innovative and consumer-friendly utility model that reduces our reliance on fossil fuels,” Bailey said. “Xcel Energy has served us for decades, and in many ways, done an admirable job. It is possible they could help us meet our objectives. We would welcome their involvement in a meaningful, timely and transparent discussion.”

What’s Next

Boulder City Council is scheduled to hear a presentation based on this memo and ask questions at a Study Session on Tuesday, Feb. 26. The session will be broadcast live on Comcast Channel 8 for Boulder viewers and online at A recording will also be available at the above website for later viewing. There is no opportunity for public comment at study sessions, but they are an excellent way to learn more about a topic and the staff’s work.

City Council will discuss this issue again – and decide whether to move forward with the next steps related to the potential creation of a city electric utility – on April 16. This meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at 1777 Broadway and will include a public hearing.

Opportunities for Public Feedback

Between now and council’s April 16 decision, the city is providing multiple ways for the community to provide input about the analysis and how council might move forward.

As always, council accepts correspondence on any issue of community interest. In addition, there is a comment form available for this specific initiative on the project website.

In addition, the city is offering the following unique opportunities:

·         An online questionnaire that will be available at between Feb. 27 and March 27;

·         A conference telephone call designed to focus on rates and reliability, two key concerns for the business community, from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12 (please register in advance at;

·         A community open house exploring the pros and cons of each of the modeled options from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13, at the West Senior Center, 909 W. Arapahoe Ave.;

·         Focused questions and examination of the options on the city’s new digital town hall platform, Inspire Boulder; and

·         Presentations, by invitation, from Bailey or other members of the staff team to interested organizations and associations.

All input collected during the next couple of months will be shared with council in advance of the April 16 meeting.