As the nation wakes-up about climate change, municipalities across the nation are looking at their energy policies to determine if there are steps they can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (CHG). Boulder, Colorado is one of those cities. Erica Meltzer of the Daily Camera in Boulder reported on the story.
Boulder voters approved a ballot measure in 2011 to authorize the City Council to create a municipal energy utility. A companion measure was also adopted to raise the occupation utility tax to fund research and implementation of a municipalization plan.
City officials conducted an analysis and determined that a city-owned and operated electrical utility would be able to offer lower rates than Xcel Energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50% from current levels and obtain 54% or more of its electricity from renewable resources.
When the study began certain conditions were set: that rates do not exceed those charged by Xcel Energy at the time Boulder acquires the system; that the rates produce enough revenue to pay operating expenses and debt payments, along with a reserve worth 25% of debt payments; that the system's reliability be comparable to Xcel's; and that the city have a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase renewable energy.
The first option of the study was staying with Xcel Energy with no change to the way it operates. The other five options were based on the city owning its own utility and having more freedom to innovate. With the help of engineering and financial consultants, the city looked at options that would produce the lowest rates for consumers, the greatest use of renewable resources and the greatest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The report concluded that a municipal-owned and operated utility could:
- Offer lower rates to residential, commercial and industrial customers, not just on "day one" but over a 20-year time frame;
- Maintain or exceed current levels of reliability, and future investments could enhance dependability;
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent from current levels and exceed the Kyoto Protocol goals within the first year;
- Get 54% or more of its power from renewable resources, such as wind, hydro and solar;
- Create a model public utility that would allow for innovation in everything from energy efficiency to customer service.
An Xcel Energy spokeswoman said company officials need time to study the city's findings. "The city has taken some time to put some thoughtful analysis into this," Xcel Energy spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo said. "We want to be able to have some time to do our own thoughtful analysis."
If the City Council votes to proceed with creating a municipal energy utility in April, officials anticipate they would begin the process of acquiring Xcel's network in Boulder in August.
If Boulder goes this direction, it could embolden other cities to follow suit. It could also force Xcel, and other utilities around the nation, to change the way they generate electricity—increasing the percentage of renewable generation, and lower costs in order to meet the criteria Boulder established.
Boulder as a community has been pro-active in clean energy. Last fall the Boulder Valley School District flipped the switch on 5,000 solar panels installed on 14 schools in the District. This project was installed by SolarCity. Hopefully other communities will follow Boulder’s lead.