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Boulder, Colo., voters decline to pursue municipalization

November 9, 2020

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
November 9, 2020

Voters in Boulder, Colo., this month approved a ballot initiative that calls for the city to enter into a new, 20-year franchise with investor-owned Xcel Energy.

Residents of the city voted on ballot initiative (City Initiative 2C). According to unofficial results as of Nov. 5, the initiative was approved by 28,401 votes (53.30%), with 24,889 (46.70%) opposed.

If the result holds as expected, Boulder will pause its efforts to create a local electric utility and Boulder residents and businesses will remain Xcel customers in a new partnership.     

Franchise allows opt-outs starting in 2023   

The franchise agreement, which is a part of a comprehensive settlement agreement with Xcel Energy, includes unique terms that give the city additional opportunities to end the franchise agreement early under certain conditions.

The city could opt-out of the franchise in 2022, 2024 and 2028 if Xcel Energy fails to meet certain emission benchmarks, and could also opt-out in 2026, 2031 and 2036 for any reason. An opt-out would require a six-person vote of City Council or a majority vote of Boulder voters.   

If the city opted out of the franchise, it could re-initiate the process to create a local electric utility.

Report highlights benefits of public power utility in Boulder, Colo.

local power financial analysis found that lower renewable electricity prices, lower bond rates and increasing electrification of transportation and buildings means that citizens of Boulder, Colo., can expect that a locally owned utility would at least breakeven financially within five to 10 years of startup.

The analysis was released on Oct. 14 by a coalition called Empower Our Future, a group that opposed approval of the ballot initiative.