Climate. Safety. Savings.

Pause the muni, support green Xcel deal and reach our local climate goals faster!

Vote Yes on 2C & 2D

It’s been 10 years, the climate can’t wait!

Although Boulder has made progress on renewables and energy efficiency in parallel with municipalization efforts, 10 years of legal and engineering fees toward the muni itself have yielded no such gains. It’s clear municipalization is no longer the best way to fight climate change. The City of Boulder and Xcel Energy have negotiated a new green franchise deal, and it’s time to pause the muni and pursue this more effective path to meaningful climate action.

Vote Yes for:

Our Climate

Xcel Energy guarantees an 80% reduction* in greenhouse gas emissions throughout the state by 2030 — and a groundbreaking Energy Partnership agreement will help Boulder reach its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030 with innovative local power initiatives — starting right away!

Our Safety

Xcel Energy will commit $33 million to undergrounding power lines — with 50% complete in the first 5 years, reducing the risk of fires and outages.

Our Budget

Boulder will save millions in additional legal and engineering fees — we’ve already spent more than $25 million — and Boulder has five opportunities to exit the deal in the first ten years if Xcel doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain, 2022, 2024 and 2027 if Xcel does not meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, and in 2025 and 2030 for any reason we choose.**

* From 2005 levels.

** Exit to take effect in the beginning of the following year.

Highlights from the Q&A Session

Vote Yes on 2C & 2D for a Great Green Deal for Boulder.

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The effects of rapid climate change are grabbing headlines every day — from unprecedented fires in the West to devastating hurricanes on our coastal regions. We must act now!

The agreement includes:

  • Partnership on local distribution system planning and grid modernization.
  • Piloting innovative programs like local distributed energy generation, battery storage systems, and new solar gardens in Boulder.
  • A cooperation agreement to work toward changing a state law restricting larger buildings with smaller electric demands—like churches and warehouses — from using rooftop solar to generate more than 120 percent of their own demand and provide power for neighboring homes and businesses.
  • And much more!

We can improve safety and reliability in our local community now!

Since the City of Boulder began pursuing municipalization 10 years ago, we have had no investment in undergrounding Boulder’s power lines, about half of which are aerial, are fire risks and are often downed by weather. Xcel Energy is committing $33 million to underground power lines throughout Boulder, half within 5 years. The City of Boulder will direct priorities and begin with high-risk areas, like Chautauqua.

A newly formed Energy Partnership Agreement, including representatives from Xcel Energy, the City of Boulder and local businesses and residents, will help improve safety and resilience through local pilot programs such as neighborhood power “islanding” microgrids (where a neighborhood’s solar power can continue to provide electricity if the grid goes down), residential demand response batteries and LED streetlight upgrades. Successful programs can then be replicated in other cities.

Municipalization is no longer the best path to achieving our climate action goals. It’s time to take the “off ramp” that Boulder City Council and City staff have promised to the community and pursue this more effective path to meaningful climate action.

Endorsements

“None of us can achieve our goals alone. The time is right for Boulder and Xcel to go forward together and show other communities how climate leadership is done.”

Bill Ritter, Former Colorado Governor
Linda_Shoemaker

Linda Shoemaker
CU (Regent District 2)

Richard_Polk

Richard Polk
Former Boulder City Council Member

SUZY AGETON.jpg

                               Suzy Ageton
BOULDER CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE
301 19th
Boulder, CO 80302
303-442-5726
303-938-8894 FAX
www.suzyagetonforcitycouncil.org

Suzy Ageton
Former Boulder City Council Member

Leslie_Durgin

Leslie Durgin
Former City of Boulder Mayor

Will_Toor

Will Toor
Former Boulder Mayor

LOPEZ_RICH.jpg Democratic Boulder County commissioner candidate Rich (short for Richard) Lopez.

Richard Lopez
Former Boulder City Council Member

Ken_Wilson

Ken Wilson
Former Boulder City Council Member

Andy_Schultheiss

Andy Schultheiss
Former Boulder City Council Member

Angelique_Espinoza

Angelique Espinoza
Former Boulder City Council Member

Bob_Yates

Bob Yates
City of Boulder Mayor Pro Tem

gordon_riggle

Gordon Riggle
Former Boulder City Council Member

Jan_Burton

Jan Burton
Former Boulder City Council Member

Alan Olson
Alan Rudy
Alexander Trifunac
Alice Trembour
Anie Roche
Arno Niemand
Bal Patterson
Benita Duran
Betsy Hand
Bill LeBlanc
Bob Baskerville
Bob Drake
Brad Feld
Buzz Burrell
Carol Semple
Caroline Landry
Cate Lawrence
Clif Harald
Constance D’Argenio
Cynthia Schmidt
David Curtis

Dennis L. Arfmann
Donald Held
Doyle Albee
Duncan Coker
Elisabeth Patterson
Elizabeth Hartman
Elizabeth Jacques
Eric Budd
Fran Katnik
Gail Storey
Giovanni Perrone
Greg Diener
Jack Thompson
Jack Walker
Jane Butcher
Janet Beardsley
Jeannie Thompson
Jeff Bennett
Jim Helgoth
Joe Lhotka
Joel Smith

Joey Fratino
John Griffin
John Richardson
John Scholz
John Tayer
John Tilton
Karey Christ-Janer
Katy Schmoll
Katy Yates
Kent Katnik
Kim Boston
Kirk Johnson
Lloyd Gelman
Lynn Streeter
Marguerite Moritz
Marion Thurnauer
Mark Meyer
Miguel Zavala
Mike Dorsey
Mike Shimmin
Neil Kolwey

Patrick Murphy
Paul Orbuch
Pete Kelley
Peter Wayne
Porter Storey
Priscilla Corielle
Raymond Spalla
Richard Nehls
Robert Repetto
Sam Fitch
Sedrick Muller
Stephanie Rudy
Stephen LeBlang
Sue Prant
Susan Clarke
Susan Connelly
Tara Winer
Vinc Duran
Wallace “Sandy” Dunlap
William Flinchbaugh

Interested?

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FAQs

The Settlement

Subject to voter approval, the city and Xcel have entered into a settlement agreement that would pause the city’s decade-long municipalization litigation and bring the parties together to work collaboratively on climate change. There are many elements of the settlement agreement, including a binding commitment by Xcel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% (from 2005 levels) by 2030, with interim benchmarks throughout the 2020s. Xcel agrees to spend $33 million undergrounding aerial electric wires–half of that in the next five years–to increase reliability and safety. And, the parties would enter into a partnership agreement to test innovative technologies and systems that will enable Boulder to get to 100% renewables by 2030, leading the way for other cities in Colorado and the U.S.

The city and Xcel have had on-and-off settlement discussions throughout the years. In 2017, the city staff and Xcel presented a settlement proposal to the city council, but it didn’t earn enough council support to put it before the Boulder voters that year. Those settlement discussions resumed in April of this year, led by city staff and with the support of Mayor Sam Weaver and Mayor Pro Tem Bob Yates. On September 1, city council voted to approve the settlement, subject to approval of the Boulder voters. Council voted unanimously to place that community approval on this fall’s ballot as Measure 2C.

With Boulder’s Great Green Deal, we can roll up our sleeves and get to work right away on local clean energy. Contrast this with the fact the City of Boulder’s municipalization endeavor has been going on for ten years and will take a minimum of five more years and hundreds of millions of dollars to complete, if everything goes the city’s way. Even then, Boulder is unlikely to have electricity any greener than what we will have under the settlement.

Not at all. This settlement builds on the last series of settlement talks in 2016 and 2017. The latest round of settlement discussions began in April and took into account suggestions and input from hundreds of Boulder residents throughout the spring and summer. The deal has been carefully negotiated to move us toward Boulder’s renewable energy goals as quickly and as inexpensively as possible. And, after the voters decide this fall to approve the settlement, we will have five opportunities over the next ten years to walk away from it and possibly resume municipalization if Xcel doesn’t keep up its end of the bargain, or if we simply change our minds. A Yes vote puts us on the fastest path to a green future, but doesn’t lock us into a deal we don’t like.

Nothing. Zero. Nada. Boulder is making no commitments to spend any money in this settlement. Conversely, Xcel is contractually committing to invest in new technologies in Boulder, to spend $33 million undergrounding Boulder’s aerial eclectic wires, and to pay the city an annual franchise fee in excess of $3 million. In addition, Xcel must spend whatever it takes to get to 80% greenhouse gas reduction by 2030, with interim commitments at 2022, 2024, and 2027. If Boulder choses to spend money to test out new technologies or systems, it can do so, at the city’s sole and absolute discretion. Indeed, Ballot Measure 2D would provide about $2 million in annual funding so that the city can do just this. But approval of 2D is not a condition of settlement. Voters can approve the settlement by voting Yes on 2C, but decide that they don’t want to spend any money on energy innovation by voting No on 2D. Of course, we hope that people will vote Yes on both, so that we have a chance of reaching 100% renewables by 2030.

Xcel is regulated by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and can only charge rates in Boulder equal to all similar customers across the state. Indeed, the average Xcel electric bill has actually dropped over the last decade. If Xcel ever wanted to raise rates, they would have to justify the increase to the Colorado PUC, with input from consumers. There are no guarantees what energy costs will be in the future, either with Xcel or from a Boulder city-owned utility. However, in the first years of a city-owned utility, Boulder would likely be buying most or all of its electricity from Xcel. With millions of customers, Xcel’s economy of scale and its rapid move towards less expensive renewable sources makes it likely that Xcel’s rates will be the same as or lower than anything that the City of Boulder could offer.

No. Over the next ten years, the city can walk away from the settlement at five different points. So, for example, if Xcel doesn’t meet its greenhouse gas commitments in 2022, 2024, or 2027, the city can tear up the deal and (should it want to) resume municipalization. Likewise, in 2025 and 2030, the city can walk away from the settlement for any reason or no reason whatsoever, at our discretion, even if Xcel is fully complying with the settlement. While the settlement has been billed as a 20-year franchise, think of it as a series of two- and three-year franchises, with Boulder voters having the say over whether we stay hitched.

No. This deal was highly negotiated between the city and Xcel, with the city being represented by people who have long supported municipalization, but who realize that a settlement is now the community’s best path forward. Hundreds of community members weighed in on the settlement terms over the course of four months this spring and summer, with lots of good suggestions and ideas, many of which were incorporated in the deal. But, whether to accept the settlement is entirely your choice. If you don’t like the settlement and you want the city to continue the municipalization endeavor, you can vote that way. The city staff and city council will honor whatever the majority of Boulder voters decide.

You don’t have to trust Xcel to like the settlement. Built into the settlement is the right for Boulder to walk away five times over the next ten years. Three of those exits, including one as soon as 2022, are tied to Xcel’s performance of its commitment under the settlement. If Xcel doesn’t perform, we can tear up the deal. And two more exits, the first one in 2025, have nothing to do with Xcel’s performance of its settlement commitments. The city can simply change its mind and walk away. So, regardless of whether you believe Xcel is a trustworthy organization, Boulder holds all of the options and can end the deal if we’re not happy.

“Shall the City of Boulder grant a franchise to Public Service Company of Colorado to furnish, sell and distribute gas and electricity to the city and to all persons, businesses, and industries within the city and the right to make reasonable use of all streets and other public places and public easements as may be necessary as described in Ordinance 8410?”

“Without raising the tax rate shall the existing Utility Occupation Tax, which in 2021 and 2022 will be in the amount of $2,076,181, be extended from a current expiration date of December 31, 2022 to December 31, 2025 and be repurposed to pay all costs associated with the formation of a municipal electric utility and to be used to fund projects, pilots, initiatives and research that support the city’s clean energy goals in the context of the city’s racial equity goals and the community’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement such as:

  • Providing energy-related assistance to disadvantaged members of the community, including support for utility bill payments and access to renewable energy;
  • Improving system reliability and modernizing, and supporting clean energy-related businesses, including, without limitation, new approaches in electrification of buildings and transportation, enhancement of resilience;
  • Implementing a partnership agreement with Public Service Company of Colorado; and
    Increasing access to energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions
  • Only if a majority of registered electors approve a Franchise Agreement with Public Service Company of Colorado at the November 3, 2020 Election,

And shall the increased and extended portion of the tax be subject to the same terms and conditions as the original tax and all earnings thereon (regardless of amount) constitute a voter approved revenue change, and an exception to the revenue and spending limits of Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution?”

Municipalization

Back in 2010, many in Boulder were frustrated that Xcel was not getting green fast enough. So in votes that year and the following year, the community instructed city council and city staff to explore the possibility of the city starting up its own municipal utility, using poles and wires that the city would buy from Xcel, forcibly if necessary. The thinking back then was that, if the city could control the electric distribution infrastructure, we could buy power from the greenest sources and get the city to 100% renewables faster than Xcel would. Other cities would follow Boulder’s lead and there would be scalable and replicable climate action.

It didn’t pan out the way we thought back in 2010. First, no one has started up a local municipal utility of this scale in many decades. There is no playbook for how to do it. The city made a number of legal and tactical blunders that cost a lot of time and money, and Xcel was a worthy adversary, not wanting to give up its Boulder customers without a fight. Ten years and $25 million in legal and engineering costs later, we’re not much closer to a city-owned utility than when we started in 2010.

The city has been pursuing municipalization since the voters authorized it in 2010. Over the course of that decade, the city has spent $25 million on outside lawyers, engineers, and other professionals fighting Xcel in court and before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. That doesn’t include nearly $5 million in internal costs of Boulder city staff. The voters authorized $29 million in special taxes to pay for the municipalization litigation, with only $4 million left in the warchest. To put that remaining amount in perspective, Boulder spent more than $5 million on municipalization litigation last year, and will spend $4 million more this year. So, if we were to keep going, we’d probably be out of money in the next year or so, and the city would have to go back to the voters and ask them for more tax funds to pay for the continued litigation.

Of course, those millions for litigation do not include the estimated $300 to $400 million (on the low side) that a municipal utility would cost to start up. The city is still doing the engineering work to figure out how to separate the Xcel electric network from that proportion of the network that the city wants to buy. The amount of just the network separation cost alone has mushroomed from an estimated $10 million in 2016, to $110 million in 2018, to a predicted $180 million today. That doesn’t include the cost of actually buying the network assets themselves.

As far as timing, the city has completed the legal work with the Public Utilities Commission, but has not yet moved forward with the condemnation lawsuit or the legal proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Using a baseball analogy, Boulder is on first base, with a long way to go to get home.

Only $4 million remains in the tax dedicated to the pursuit of the municipalization endeavor. It is unlikely that this will be sufficient to prosecute the condemnation lawsuit and the separate proceeding before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission necessary to get the total municipalization costs. Thus, if voters wanted to get these numbers, they would need to approve additional taxes to pay for lawyers and engineers, and the proceedings would likely take at least three or four more years to complete, possibly longer. And, of course, there’s no guarantee that the settlement with Xcel would still be on the table then.

Something similar to this has occurred in a few other towns, where financial players came in and bought out those municipalities’ electricity purchase contracts so that they could switch to clean energy faster. But, in those cases, the cities already had municipal utilities and they were just trying to buy their way out of unwise contracts. Of course, the financial “white knight” in those situations got a piece of the action going forward in the form of new contracts with those towns. Boulder actually tried to find out if there was a “white knight” out there for us by issuing an RFP earlier this year. The results were disappointing and there is no indication, at least not so far, that there is anyone willing to step in to start paying our legal bills for municipalization.

No. This is a pause in the municipalization effort and Boulder can resume the muni endeavor and pick up where we left off, if the voters decide to do that in the future. Boulder has the right to exit the franchise on five different occasions over the next ten years, including as soon as 2022. Those exits can be triggered by either six votes on the city council, or by a vote of the people. And all of the legal and engineering work towards municipalization that has already been done is preserved. In fact, the settlement actually improves Boulder’s position on municipalization by resolving a number of sticky legal and technical issues and capping Boulder’s condemnation costs at $200 million, if the city was ever to resume municipalization. Even if you’re a fan of municipalization and want to reserve the city’s right to resume the endeavor, this is a win.

The Environment

Xcel has previously committed to reduce greenhouse gases emissions from its electricity generation by 80 percent by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels). In the settlement with the city, Xcel contractually re-affirmed this promise and supplemented it by agreeing to meet certain interim benchmarks, reducing greenhouse gases emissions by 52 percent by 2022, 61 percent by 2024, and 67 percent by 2027. This is the first time that Xcel has ever made these interim commitments, and they will be independently verified and applied statewide. If Xcel doesn’t meet any target, the city can walk away from the deal and resume municipalization. Not an idle threat, given the city’s willingness to pursue municipalization in the past.

In fact, the new partnership between the city and Xcel enables 100% renewables, and does it faster than going it alone. While Xcel’s commitment to 80 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2030 is laudable—and seemingly achievable—the city’s goal is actually 100 percent renewable sources in all electricity generation by 2030. To help bridge this gap, Xcel and the city will enter into a groundbreaking partnership agreement whereby Xcel will help the city experiment with a number of innovative systems, like distributed generation, neighborhood islanding, enhanced storage, and load management through data sharing. The partnership agreement identifies specific test projects at the soon-to-be-redeveloped former Boulder Community Hospital site and at Chautauqua, and it provides a process and governance structure to add new projects over the years. Successful energy R&D experiments in Boulder can be rolled out to the rest of the state and the country, ensuring that the innovative carbon-reduction work we do here is scaled and replicated. Ballot Measure 2D will fund that R&D work by re-purposing and continuing a tax that residents and businesses already pay.

Let’s be direct: The 120% Rule is one of the silliest laws in Colorado. It limits the number of rooftop solar panels on a building to those which generate no more than 120 percent of the electric needs of the building. In the settlement with the city, Xcel has agreed to go hand-in-hand with Boulder to the state legislature to seek to abolish this rule (and we believe our current administration will support this), allowing full-capacity local solar generation on buildings with big roofs—like churches and warehouses— and permitting them to share excess generated electricity with neighbors, moving us all closer to 100% renewables.

Just the opposite. Boulder can and will propose projects and novel climate solutions– for example, new solar garden projects – to target enhanced participation for residents living in vulnerable communities. This can create new models which might be replicated in other cities, having a further positive impact on climate change. In fact, all innovations prompted by Boulder’s Great Green Deal will surely catch the attention of customers throughout Colorado and the U.S.  It’s time for Boulder to once again get out in front on energy policy and provide others a viable path to follow.

Yes. One of the ironies of the municipalization endeavor is that, before it started in 2010, Xcel was spending more than $1 million per year to underground aerial electric lines in Boulder, protecting them from wind, ice, and snow, making the network safer and more reliable. But, when Boulder started the municipalization endeavor a decade ago, it also ended the city’s franchise agreement with Xcel, under which Xcel was paying this undergrounding money. For the last ten years, Boulder has been out of franchise and no undergrounding has occurred. However, in the settlement, Xcel agrees to spend $33 million to underground aerial electrical wires in Boulder, with half of this amount to be invested in Boulder over the next five years. This should more than catch up what we’ve missed out on in undergrounding over the last decade, and help us have a more reliable and safer network, like Fort Collins enjoys.

While municipalization was pending, the city was reserving its bonding capacity for the potential $300 to $400 million it would cost the city to start its own electric utility. This tapped us out financially and made it impossible to also issue bonds to build a $100 million citywide fiber optic broadband network, such as the one that Longmont enjoys. If the municipalization endeavor is ended, the city’s bonding capacity will be freed up and a citywide broadband network could become a reality. As icing on the cake, Xcel agreed in the settlement to allow joint trenching of undergrounded electric and broadband fiber cables, and attachment of city fiber cables to Xcel’s poles, where undergrounding is not feasible.

Yes. In addition to the money that Xcel has committed to spend to reduce greenhouse gases, to underground Boulder’s aerial wires, and to support innovative R&D work in Boulder, under the new franchise agreement, Xcel will also pay to the city a franchise fee of 3% of the electricity sold in Boulder. This will amount to a little more than $3 million a year, which will go straight to the city’s General Fund, used to pay for public safety, libraries, and parks. If the franchise agreement is approved by the voters voting Yes on 2C, this payment to the city will start January 1, 2021, just at a time that the city can use all the help it can get in patching the financial hole created by COVID.

The settlement is captured in a series of documents, the most important of which are a Settlement Agreement and a Franchise Agreement. The Boulder City Charter (our local constitution) requires that any franchise agreement must be approved by a vote of the people. The city council did approve the Settlement Agreement between the city and Xcel, subject to voter approval of the Franchise Agreement, and the council placed the approval of the Franchise Agreement on the fall ballot as Ballot Measure 2C. If the voters approve the Franchise Agreement and it is likewise approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (highly likely, following voter approval), then the settlement will take effect.

In that case, there would be no settlement between Xcel and the city. The city would lose the benefits under the settlement and city council would have to decide whether to continue the municipalization endeavor and, if continued, whether to ask the voters for more taxes to pay for it.

The Utility Occupation Tax that currently funds the municipalization endeavor expires automatically if the Franchise Agreement is approved. The voters can, however, re-purpose and continue the tax. If they decline to do so, the settlement would still be approved, but there would be no dedicated funding for the work needed to get Boulder to 100% renewable energy by 2030. The opposite cannot occur, because the tax can be re-purposed only if the Franchise Agreement is approved by the voters.

It’s EASIER and FASTER to achieve 100% renewable energy. With the Great Green Deal, Boulder will be able to simply build over and above Xcel’s already-dramatic progress toward a de-carbonized energy supply, instead of concocting an energy mix from scratch as a muni would need to.

It’s LESS WASTEFUL. Wouldn’t it be great to stop spending precious funds on lawyers and engineers — especially as we all battle the financial impact of COVID-19 — and instead focus on actual renewable energy projects? Just think of what the City could have done with the more than $25 million already spent — that’s a lot of solar panels!

It’s COORDINATED. Being a part of a larger system like Xcel’s means knowledge-sharing with similarly situated neighboring cities when it comes to its explorations and achievements, as well as learning from and applying others’ successes. The muni’s idiosyncratic approach means each small system is wildly different, hampering any coordinated efforts to quell the climate disaster we’re seeing in the news every day.

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