Community Engagement

Pueblo voters turn aside municipalization proposal

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Voters in Pueblo, Colorado, recently rejected a measure that would have allowed the city to leave investor-owned Black Hills Energy and form a public power utility.

The most recent vote count from the May 5 election stood at 21,286 in opposition to the proposal and 6,846 in favor of the measure.

The Pueblo City Council approved the special municipal election at a meeting earlier this year. If approved, the city would have been allowed to buy or condemn Black Hills Energy’s electric facilities in the city and Pueblo County. The approved ballot question would have authorized Pueblo’s Board of Water Works to form a water and power utility.

Pueblo Chamber of Commerce voted to support community-owned utility

In April, the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors voted to support a community owned utility in Pueblo.

The Pueblo Chamber’s Board of Directors said that while immediate reduction in rates were not likely, over a 20-year period significant savings would be received by ratepayers from a community-owned utility. No taxpayer funds would be used to acquire or operate the system, the board noted.

It was also noted that a Municipal Electric Utility Feasibility Study (Phase 2) showed that estimated costs to acquire all distribution system statewide and separation of stranded costs, other costs for legal, start-up and working capital would be $868 million.   

At current rates, the Phase 2 study estimated that the level of net revenues provides enough capacity to cover revenue bonds of $900 million to $1 billion. This indicates that a transition to a community owned electric works was financially feasible with significant rate savings over a 20-year period, the chamber of commerce noted. 

“Additionally, local control would allow quick decisions in economic development cases rather than the cumbersome process of the Public Utilities Commission,” it said.

A story from Colorado Public Radio reported that spending in the campaign by groups opposed and in favor of the measure was tilted heavily towards a group that opposed the measure. Pueblo CARES, a group that opposed the measure, raised $1.5 million compared to Bring Power Home 2020’s $31,000. Bring Power Home 2020 was formed to support the Pueblo municipalization effort.

Boulder offers to buy Xcel Energy assets for $93.96 million

Elsewhere in Colorado, municipalization efforts are continuing in Boulder, Colo.

The City of Boulder, Colo., offered to purchase certain portions of Xcel Energy electric infrastructure for $93.96 million in a Nov. 20 letter to the investor-owned utility.

The city’s offer comes after an Oct. 28 Colorado Public Utilities Commission ruling that approved transfer of Xcel Energy assets outside substations to the city.

The appraised value of the assets outside substations is $62.3 million. The basis for the city’s offer is the value Xcel reports for financial filings; the offer is double the original cost of the assets, less depreciation.

In December, Boulder filed a petition to condemn Xcel Energy’s electric distribution assets in Boulder District Court following good faith negotiations with the Minneapolis-based company.