Xcel, Boulder agree on separation details in march towards municipal utility
- Boulder, Colorado, and Xcel Energy last week made several filings with the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC), telling regulators how they will handle utility easements after the city separates from Xcel's service and forms a municipal electric utility.
- The filings also address how Boulder will reimburse Xcel for work related to the city’s separation as well as the list of electric facilities and property interests that may be transferred.
- Boulder and Xcel's filings were made to comply with the PUC's September 2017 order in the case. While that decision rejected parts of the city's plan, it approved some assets for transfer and set out a way forward for Boulder to form its local utility.
In 2013 Boulder voters approved spending up to $214 million to form a municipal utility, launching a process that could end as it began in 2020 — with another trip to the polls.
City officials say work on forming the utility is currently focused on completing the engineering and planning necessary to explain to the community how a local electric utility would separate from Xcel’s system, how it would operate and what it would cost.
"The intent is to help ensure that voters have the information they need to make an informed choice in 2020 about whether to move forward with a local power," City of Boulder spokesman Ben Irwin told Utility Dive.
The work includes "identifying potential sources of electricity following separation and updating financial models based on that and other work," Irwin said. "We expect to provide an updated financial model to Boulder City Council in early December."
In a joint notice of filing to the PUC last month, Xcel and Boulder said they have filed a permanent easement agreement, a cost agreement and a corrected list of assets outside substations.
However, Boulder and Xcel "did not request these items be approved by the Commission at this time," the utility noted in an emailed statement.
Instead, Xcel explained, the filing outlined the importance of an Easement Sharing Agreement that would "detail how both entities could both utilize numerous Xcel Energy easements and land rights." The utility and city have requested until Nov. 16 to file the Easement Sharing Agreement.
"After that filing, it is anticipated the Commission review process would start," Xcel said.
The city's first application, filed in 2015, was rejected.
Irwin said city staff have "always anticipated that this effort would take time, particularly because there is no modern precedent in Colorado for this action."
While Xcel and Boulder will need the PUC to eventually sign off on a plan, it is voters in 2020 who will have the final say, Irwin said. That vote could tackle issues including authorization to issue debt and changes to the city charter.
"But the gist of the vote will be whether the city will move forward with separating from Xcel," he said.
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