Does the Boulder municipal utility saga mean more munis coming?


By: SGN Staff


Quick Take: Recent articles and recaps of the Boulder, CO saga have me wondering if we will start to see a shift to municipal utilities. Take a quick review of the story and use the Comment form at the bottom to record your opinion. - By Jesse Berst


Clean Technica recently ran a story documenting Boulder's plan to "secede" from Xcel Energy and form its own municipal utility. From where I sit, the story is a bit one-sided. It recounts the complaints about Xcel made by former mayor Susan Osborne. But it fails to include Xcel's side of the story. Nor does it give Xcel credit for having the courage to be an early smart grid pioneer.


Even so, it does outline the essentials while begging a larger, national question. The process started in 2003. Boulder had a climate-action plan in place and began studying the option of its own municipal utility. The goals included more control over technology and an increase in green energy.


Fast forward a few years, and Xcel chose Boulder for the nation's first-ever comprehensive smart grid deployment. In many ways it was a great technical success, especially from the utility point of view, greatly enhancing situational awareness, improving efficiency and enhancing reliability.


But it also had three big problems. First, it did a poor job of giving customers tools to understand and control their energy usage. Second, Xcel did a poor job communicating its achievements and why they mattered to customers. (A flaw it shared with most of the early smart grid trailblazers.) Third, it came in over budget and badly mangled its attempt to get paid for the overage.