Boulder is deciding just how and when to kick out Xcel Energy



Quick Take: Boulder, Colorado was America's first smart grid city, courtesy of Xcel Energy, the utility serving the region. But that wasn't enough to earn Boulder's love. In 2011, the city decided to divorce Xcel in favor of a municipal utility.


As we've reported, the Boulder scenario may have important implications for other investor-owned utilities. I thought you'd want to see this update.  - Jesse Berst


Boulder officials hope they can have a gradual transition to a city-run electric power utility. In fact, they are lobbying the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to "influence" Xcel to cooperate with Boulder's transition plan. But just in case things don't go smoothly, the city is preparing for an abrupt take over.


Heather Bailey is Boulder's executive director of energy strategy and electric utility development. She told the Daily Camera newspaper that "we assume that Xcel will not let us touch the system until we write the check."


With the help of a consultant, Boulder is preparing for two scenarios. In the first one, Boulder would take ownership, set rates and bill customers. But Xcel would continue to provide wholesale power and field crews for up to two years.


In the second scenario, Boulder would immediately be responsible for everything. In that event, it would hire consultants and contractors to take over much of the work.


In either event, the city wants to get serious about creating the "utility of the future." Whatever else that implies, Boulder wants to get much more of its energy from renewable sources. Renewable energy (or the lack thereof) was at the heart of the original dispute. In 2011, voters authorized a municipal utility as a way to get a greener energy supply.



Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.


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