Community Engagement

Boulder takes key step in municipalization effort

In a key step towards possibly forming a public power utility, Boulder, Colo., filed a petition in a district court to condemn Public Service Co. of Colorado’s electric distribution assets.

The June 28 filing begins a process to determine how much Boulder would have to pay to acquire the assets from the Xcel Energy subsidiary, according to the city. Xcel Energy is an investor-owned utility.

The Boulder District Court will likely hold a valuation trial in 2020 to determine the cost, the city said.

The court filing outlines the electric distribution facilities and the property interests needed to run the facilities that Boulder wants to buy.

“One of our jobs is to give the community a clear sense of the financial impacts of creating the utility,” said Steve Catanach, director of Boulder’s climate initiatives. “The process we’ve begun today will continue moving this effort forward.”

Boulder in June offered to pay PSCo $82 million for the utility’s electric distribution assets in the city as part of a nearly decade long effort to form a public power utility.

The final offer was a nearly 20 percent increase over an offer made in April, a bump designed to avoid the expense of delay and condemnation litigation.

Boulder asked PSCo to respond to the offer by June 26, a deadline the utility didn’t meet, according to the city’s court filing.

“Negotiations have failed and further negotiation at this time would be futile,” Boulder said in the court filing. “Xcel has indicated that it will not discuss purchase price with the city prior to certain [Colorado Public Utilities Commission] action that require months to years of process; and therefore, further attempts at good faith negotiations by the city would be futile.”

In part, Boulder’s effort to form a municipal utility is driven by its goal of getting all its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Boulder — a city of about 108,000 — estimates it can get 89 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2024 at an affordable cost, according to an analysis prepared for the city in January.

While acquisition talks are going on, PSCo and Boulder staff are working together on several issues related to the planned purchase, according to city staff.

The issues include preparing a facility study agreement and detailed engineering design, technical and engineering issues related to separating Boulder from PSCo’s system, and other municipalization matters.

The Colorado PUC will need to approve aspects of Boulder’s possible purchase of parts of PSCo’s system.

Also, Boulder residents will need to approve the deal after details are finalized.