Boulder council votes to acquire Xcel property — one way or another

BOULDER and DENVER — Xcel Energy, the electric utility that provides power to communities throughout Colorado and into eight states in the western region, said Tuesday that it would achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity generation by 2050 — a step that it said was the most ambitious of any within in the electric power industry.

But even though achieving carbon-free generation was among the goals of the Boulder City Council in its efforts to break away from Xcel and convert its electrical grid to a municipal utility, the council forged ahead a few hours later with an 8-1 vote to approve Ordinance 8302.

That ordinance authorizes the city of Boulder to notify Xcel and the Public Utility Commission of its intent to purchase the Xcel assets necessary to run a city electrical utility. The ordinance allows the city to negotiate with Xcel for its assets in the city and, if negotiations fail, to condemn that property in order to create the utility.

Xcel Energy Inc., a Minneapolis-based company, took the public stage first on Tuesday when it announced in Denver 80 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.  

“This is an extraordinary time to work in the energy industry, as we’re providing customers more low-cost clean energy than we could have imagined a decade ago,” Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel said in his statement. “We’re accelerating our carbon reduction goals because we’re encouraged by advances in technology, motivated by customers who are asking for it and committed to working with partners to make it happen.”

The announcement caught the attention of Gov.-elect Jared Polis, whose recent campaign anticipated major moves toward clean energy. ”When I launched my campaign back in 2017 we had a bold agenda for our state to get to 100 percent renewable by 2040,” he said. “Xcel Energy’s exciting announcement today, along with the strong climate goals communities like Pueblo, Summit County, Fort Collins, Denver and others across the state have embraced, shows we are leading the way forward right here in Colorado — by committing to a renewable and clean energy future.”

Fowke said the goal of reaching 100 percent clean energy generation still requires technological developments that aren’t economically viable yet, but they are moving in that direction.  

“Our goals are ambitious and achieving them requires a long runway. We’re starting the conversation today to make sure we can achieve this groundbreaking transition while continuing to keep energy affordable and reliable for customers,” said Fowke.

Xcel’s announcement wasn’t lost on Boulder’s council, which met in its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night and was scheduled to consider its ordinance to begin the process of securing the assets necessary to run its own utility.

Councilman Bob Yates, the sole nay vote on Ordinance 8302, said Xcel’s move would permit the city to achieve its 100 percent renewable energy goal without the expense — including legal costs — of forming its own utility. Councilman Sam Weaver applauded Xcel’s move because of the impact it will have on the state as a whole, but the move didn’t change his mind about a city-run electric utility.

Weaver joined the eight members of the council who enthusiastically supported moving ahead, even if it means condemnation of Xcel’s property in the city.

Xcel has said, as noted in the materials attached to the council’s agenda, that it would not permit a negotiated sale, which means that lawsuits and countersuits will likely result as the process unwinds in 2019 and 2020.

In other energy developments Tuesday night, the Loveland City Council voted 7-1 to support the Platte River Power Authority’s plan to achieve 100 percent carbon-neutral power generation by 2030.

PRPA is the wholesale energy generator that is owned by and supplies power to four Northern Colorado communities — Loveland, Fort Collins, Estes Park and Longmont. It generates most of its electricity at a coal- and natural-gas fired plant called Rawhide located north of Fort Collins. The utility has been investing in recent years in wind and solar resources to reduce its reliance on carbon-based fuels.

Editor’s note: To clarify the Boulder council decision, the vote permitted moving ahead with valuation of the Xcel assets up to and including using eminent domain to acquire. Issuing bonds to finance the deal would require a vote of the public, sometimes referred to as a go-no-go vote. 

 

BOULDER and DENVER — Xcel Energy, the electric utility that provides power to communities throughout Colorado and into eight states in the western region, said Tuesday that it would achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity generation by 2050 — a step that it said was the most ambitious of any within in the electric power industry.

But even though achieving carbon-free generation was among the goals of the Boulder City Council in its efforts to break away from Xcel and convert its electrical grid to a municipal utility, the council forged ahead a few hours later with an 8-1 vote to approve Ordinance 8302.

That ordinance authorizes the city of Boulder to notify Xcel and the Public Utility Commission of its intent to purchase the Xcel assets necessary to run a city electrical utility. The ordinance allows the city to negotiate with Xcel for its assets in the city and, if negotiations fail, to condemn that property in order to create the utility.

Xcel Energy Inc., a Minneapolis-based company, took the public stage first on Tuesday when it announced in Denver 80 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.  

“This is an extraordinary time to work in the energy industry, as we’re providing customers more low-cost clean energy than we could have imagined a decade ago,” Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel said in his statement. “We’re accelerating our carbon reduction goals because we’re encouraged by advances in technology, motivated by customers who are asking for it and committed…