Boulder carries on muni fight after rejecting Xcel settlement offers

Dive Brief:

  • The Boulder, Colo., City Council voted 6-3 this week to continue litigation aimed at forming a municipal electric utility, ensuring the city's seven-year fight will continue for now.
  • The Daily Camera reports Xcel Energy offered a pair of settlements to the city, including a high-priced buy-out of its distribution system and a partnership aimed at boosting green energy. Both were rejected.
  • Boulder and Xcel are slated to go to trial next week, but the paper said a delay is possible. The utility has so far blocked the city's efforts to run its electric system, and Boulder has not been able to take them over by legal means.

Dive Insight:

How long does it take to form a municipal utility? Boulder officials are beginning to struggle with that question, wary that the years-long process will run too far and the city could lose citizen support. 

"When we run the train when the train's off the tracks, we're just digging a hole deeper," Mayor Pro Tem Andrew Shoemaker said at the Monday council meeting. "It seems to me a good decision-making means stopping and thinking a little bit."

Voting to suspend the litigation would have led to competing ballot initiatives, between accepting an Xcel settlement and continuing the tax to fund municipalization efforts. City officials told the Daily Camera that under a best-case scenario, the muni could be providing power in 2022some 12 years after the process began.

Earlier this year, Boulder officials put forth a new proposal where Xcel would continue operating the distribution system assets and controlling construction during the city's separation. That plan varied from earlier city proposals that included the use of eminent domain to wrest control of the distribution system, or buying the assets and leasing them back to Xcel.

Four years ago, voters approved spending up to $214 million in the city's bid to take control of its energy supply. Boulder's first application, filed in 2015, proposed transferring assets from Xcel to allow the city to serve customers outside the incorporated lines. Regulators blocked that plan, leading the city to consider alternatives.

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Filed Under: Transmission & Distribution