Chamber supports end of Boulder-Xcel muni fight

BOULDER — After a decade of lawsuits, appeals, negotiation starts and stops, Boulder Chamber leadership favors a deal that could put an end to Boulder’s attempt to form a municipal utility and establish a path for the city to partner with Xcel Energy Inc. (NYSE: XEL) to achieve sustainability goals.

Boulder officials announced Tuesday night a potential settlement with Xcel for a new 20-year franchise agreement.

“I think the time is right,” Boulder Chamber CEO John Tayer told BizWest.

The potential settlement requires city council approval. A first reading is set for Aug. 4, followed by a public hearing and vote on Aug. 18 A franchise agreement between the city and the utility would then have to be approved by voters.

Tayer said he’s confident the council will put the question to the voters, who will eventually approve the deal. 

“Both sides recognize that there is a great opportunity in this partnership,” he said. “Yes, there are going to be stalwarts who really don’t see any opportunity to partner with Xcel, but I see the positive arrangement we can have with a company that’s demonstrated great forward progress in achieving clean energy.”

Boulder initially sought to create its own electric utility in order to increase its share of electricity generated from renewable sources while decreasing carbon emissions that lead to climate change.

The city’s objective is to provide 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and achieve 80 percent emission reductions by 2050.

Xcel’s proposal assures that the city will see an 80% carbon reduction by 2030 with emission check-in in 2022, 2024 and 2027. It also facilitates modernization of Boulder’s electricity grid to help get to the 100% renewable-energy goal by 2030.

“This is a significant step forward for our clean-energy goals for the community,” Tayer said. 

The proposed settlement allows the city “to resume municipalization efforts at the five-, 10- or 15-year anniversaries for any reason, and in 2023, 2025, and 2028 if Xcel Energy fails to meet specified emission targets,” according to a Boulder news release.

““Everybody put forth a good faith effort to put a proposal on the table to meet the community’s needs and also some of the company’s needs,” Mayor Sam Weaver said.

Should the city and Xcel ultimately reach a franchise agreement, it would end a legal saga that went all the way to the state’s highest court. 

In June 2019, Boulder City Council voted to repeal a 2014 ordinance that provided a pathway for the city to establish a municipal electric utility, a decision that allowed a lawsuit settlement with Xcel to move forward.

Xcel, through affiliate Public Service Co. of Colorado, sued the city over the formation of that utility, which was never actually used, arguing that Boulder City Council overstepped its authority based on limitations of an amendment to the city’s charter in 2011. The amendment gave the city council authority to create a utility only if it first satisfied requirements showing the utility’s financial viability and service reliability.

A Boulder District Court judge dismissed Xcel’s suit in 2015, a decision that was reversed by the Colorado Court of Appeals the following year. The Colorado Supreme Court then overturned both of those decisions, sending the case back to a lower court.

This May, city officials announced negotiations with Xcel to end the municipalization push.

While the chamber wasn’t “sitting at the table during negotiations, we have been champions of this effort and offered our support throughout to encourage open mindedness on both sides,” Tayer said. 

Quoting the Rolling Stones, Councilwoman Mary Young summed up the negotiations: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

© 2020 BizWest Media LLC

BOULDER — After a decade of lawsuits, appeals, negotiation starts and stops, Boulder Chamber leadership favors a deal that could put an end to Boulder’s attempt to form a municipal utility and establish a path for the city to partner with Xcel Energy Inc. (NYSE: XEL) to achieve sustainability goals.

Boulder officials announced Tuesday night a potential settlement with Xcel for a new 20-year franchise agreement.

“I think the time is right,” Boulder Chamber CEO John Tayer told BizWest.

The potential settlement requires city council approval. A first reading is set for Aug. 4, followed by a public hearing and vote on Aug. 18 A franchise agreement between the city and the utility would then have to be approved by voters.

Tayer said he’s confident the council will put the question to the voters, who will eventually approve the deal. 

“Both sides recognize that there is a great opportunity in this partnership,” he said. “Yes, there are going to be stalwarts who really don’t see any opportunity to partner with Xcel, but I see the positive arrangement we can have with a company that’s demonstrated great forward progress in achieving clean energy.”

Boulder initially sought to create its own electric utility in order to increase its share of electricity generated from renewable sources while decreasing carbon emissions that lead to climate change.

The city’s objective is to provide 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and achieve 80 percent emission reductions by 2050.

Xcel’s proposal assures that the city will see an 80% carbon reduction by 2030 with emission…