Powering Strong Communities

Boulder, Colo., voters decline to pursue municipalization

Voters in Boulder, Colo., this month approved a ballot initiative that calls for the city to enter into a new, 20-year franchise with investor-owned Xcel Energy.

Residents of the city voted on ballot initiative (City Initiative 2C). According to unofficial results as of Nov. 5, the initiative was approved by 28,401 votes (53.30%), with 24,889 (46.70%) opposed.

If the result holds as expected, Boulder will pause its efforts to create a local electric utility and Boulder residents and businesses will remain Xcel customers in a new partnership.     

Franchise allows opt-outs starting in 2023   

The franchise agreement, which is a part of a comprehensive settlement agreement with Xcel Energy, includes unique terms that give the city additional opportunities to end the franchise agreement early under certain conditions.

The city could opt-out of the franchise in 2022, 2024 and 2028 if Xcel Energy fails to meet certain emission benchmarks, and could also opt-out in 2026, 2031 and 2036 for any reason. An opt-out would require a six-person vote of City Council or a majority vote of Boulder voters.   

If the city opted out of the franchise, it could re-initiate the process to create a local electric utility.

Report highlights benefits of public power utility in Boulder, Colo.

A local power financial analysis found that lower renewable electricity prices, lower bond rates and increasing electrification of transportation and buildings means that citizens of Boulder, Colo., can expect that a locally owned utility would at least breakeven financially within five to 10 years of startup.

The analysis was released on Oct. 14 by a coalition called Empower Our Future, a group that opposed approval of the ballot initiative.