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Boulder steps closer to creating clean energy-based municipal utility

Published at: Feb 25, 2013
source: Renewable Energy World.com

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Boulder, Colorado’s residents decided not to renew their contract with Xcel Energy to continue to serve as the utility for the city and its residents in November 2011 and instead pursue creating a municipal utility powered by solar and other clean energy sources. Since then there’s been speculation as to whether the city and county could create such an entity and deliver electricity at similar or lower rates.

Now the city has found that indeed, it can save money over its contract with Xcel and released a lengthy report showing the different scenarios the city is exploring. The city is holding a meeting Feb. 26 to discuss the options further and plans to make a final decision in April.

Boulder was originally set to become a smart-grid city under an agreement with Xcel Energy, with smart meters and homes designed to take advantage of smart appliances and peak energy pricing—only it didn’t happen. And Xcel wanted more money and time to start installing smart-grid components for the city. It was just another nail in the coffin for an ill-fitting arrangement for a progressive city that aggressively wanted to increase its use of renewable energy. “The Boulder community has said it wants cleaner and greener energy with rates and reliability comparable to or better than those provided by Xcel Energy.”

The report details the results of the city’s research into creating a city-owned and operated electric utility, and the options that the city came up with. “The evaluation looked at a total of six options for meeting the community’s Energy Future goals. One is a baseline evaluation of staying with Xcel Energy with no change to the way it operates,” according to a press release. The other five options explore various scenarios including high levels of renewable energy and a gradual phase in of renewable energy.

“What we are looking to do is move beyond a 19th century approach to providing energy and create a forward-looking, innovative and consumer-friendly utility model that reduces our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Heather Bailey, Boulder’s executive director of Energy Strategy and Electric Utility Development. “Xcel Energy has served us for decades, and in many ways, done an admirable job. It is possible they could help us meet our objectives. We would welcome their involvement in a meaningful, timely and transparent discussion.”?

The report found that by creating a municipal utility the city could indeed reduce electric costs over what Xcel is offering. “Not just on day one, as required by the Charter, but on average over 20 years,” the city said. The city also found that the options could: “Reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent from current levels and exceed the Kyoto Protocol target in year one; and Obtain 54 percent or more of its electricity from renewable resources.”

“We are excited to share the results of this detailed analysis with City Council and our community. We believe the findings demonstrate that a municipal utility could be good for consumers, good for Boulder businesses and good for our planet,” Bailey said. “We look forward to an informed conversation over the next couple of months about how best to proceed.”

The study session will be broadcast on Comcast Channel 8 for Boulder viewers and online at www.boulderchannel8.com.

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