Xcel Energy blasts Boulder’s utility plan, questioning costs associated with 2B, 2C

Xcel Energy officials late this afternoon expressed disappointment over Boulder’s move to create its own municipal electric utility, continuing to cast doubt on the city’s cost projections.

But backers of the so-called municipalization that would oust Xcel – the state’s largest utility — were buoyed by Tuesday’s narrow victory that wasn’t confirmed until early this morning.

“Congratulations Boulder voters,” reads a message on the RenewablesYES.org website. “We’ve passed 2B and 2C. Boulder’s energy future is in our hands. Well done. Together, we’ll create a brighter future for ourselves and for future generations.”

Proponents have argued for months that the city can do a much better job of diversifying Boulder’s power supply than Xcel, acquiring a much higher percentage of renewable energy than Xcel’s current goal of 30 percent by 2020.

Xcel and opponents of municipalization spent more than $900,000 campaigning compared to $87,000 for proponents, according to the Denver Post. City consultants estimate it will cost less than $200 million to set up Boulder’s own utility, while Xcel put the figure at more than $500 million.

Initially, it appeared that Question 2C, which allows the city to explore its own utility and issue bonds, had passed, but that 2B, which raises a utility occupation tax to pay for setup of the new utility, had failed. In the end, though, 2C passed by 933 votes, and 2B passed by a scant 141 votes.

“Boulder will need to make some early decisions about the path it wants to follow,” Xcel spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo told the Colorado Independent. “We do not want to invest in programs or resources that will not be useful to our state-wide system and other customers if we no longer serve Boulder. We have an obligation to the rest of our Colorado customers to assure we obtain the fair value of all of the assets. They should not be burdened by Boulder’s decision.”

Aguayo again questioned Boulder’s cost estimates.

“We still believe municipalization costs have been significantly understated by the city. We remain skeptical that Boulder will be able to meet the terms of the initiative and match our rates, let alone match the level of renewables we provide.”

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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