Community Engagement

Boulder takes another step toward municipalization, offering $68.5 million for Xcel assets

The city of Boulder, Colorado, this month took another step in its effort to separate itself from Xcel Energy and set up its own public power utility with a $68.5 million offer to acquire electric assets from Xcel.

The bid is for more than 100,000 assets, including everything from meters and poles to conduits and easements, but no generation assets are involved.

“The purpose of the dollar figure is to kick off a negotiation,” Emily Sandoval, communications specialist with the city, said. “If we can’t reach an agreement, we would make a condemnation filing in court, so this is one major step.”

Boulder began its municipalization effort in 2011, but costs have not yet been discussed with Xcel. Boulder is eager to have some figures on how much municipalization would cost so it can put together a proposal to present to voters, possibly as soon as November 2020.

When Boulder began its municipalization effort, Xcel’s generation portfolio was heavily dependent on fossil fuels, and Boulder wanted to switch to renewable resources and have more control over its energy future, as well as capture some of the economic benefits of being a public power utility.

Since then, Xcel has been moving away from fossil fuels and has pledged to have zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

In a first step toward municipalization, Boulder in 2010 allowed its franchise with Xcel to expire, including the franchise fee which provided the city with $1.4 million in annual revenue. Residents in 2010 voted to replace the franchise fee with a utility occupation tax that goes into the city’s general fund, and renewed this tax in 2015. In 2011, voters approved an increase in the utility occupation tax that is directed at funding municipalization efforts. Voters increased and renewed that funding in 2017.

Boulder is building toward assembling all the data and details it needs to present a proposal to voters in 2020 or 2021 on whether or not to move forward with municipalization. Right now, “we don’t know how much it would cost to construct a separate system,” Sandoval said. “We have estimates, but we don’t know the costs of billing, of hiring people.”

“The best way to characterize the work we’re doing right now is we are just trying to assess the costs,” she said.

Read more about Boulder’s municipalization efforts in a recent article in Public Power Magazine.