Boulder votes to keep energy options open

BOULDER — Boulder voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly supported a measure that will allow the city to retain $1.4 million in revenue while the exploring clean energy supply options for the future.

Earlier this year, the city council decided not to renew a franchise agreement with Xcel after negotiations with the utility failed to reach an deal that the city felt would substantially replace the city’s coal burning energy supply with renewable sources.

With the franchise agreement, the city collected $1.4 from Xcel through a franchise fee that the utility passed on to customers. However, without the franchise agreement, the city risked losing this revenue as Xcel signaled they would discontinue the fee after the franchise expired.

In order to balance an already strained budget, an occupation tax for Xcel was placed on the ballot to replace the revenue generated from the fee. As with the franchise fee, the utility will pass the tax onto customers.

Without the $1.4 million in revenue, the city would have been forced to cut library hours and implement layoffs.

Boulder is moving forward with several communities across the country, such as Marin County in California, by committing to replace coal burning power with clean energy for the city’s electricital supply.

The city now has a few options for the future. The first, and most likely option, will involve working with Xcel on a new mutually amenable franchise agreement with strong commitments to renewables. Others have been talking about moving forward without Xcel by municipalizing the city’s electric grid, but this option would be significantly more costly. The third option – which is not yet an option under state law – would be following in the footsteps on Marin County by maintaining Xcel for electric grid infrastructure while bidding on the market for other utilities that offer cheaper clean energy supplies

Taran Volckhausen is a freelance journalist who primarily writes about the environment, politics, and drug policy. His work has appeared on National Geographic, Christian Science Monitor, The Intercept, Mongabay, among others. He is also a former editor at Colombia Reports. Twitter: @tvolckhausen

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