Pass or fail, Boulder plans post-Xcel deal paths for muni

Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020

As voters prepare to weigh an historic settlement with electricity provider Xcel Energy, work on municipalization has continued in Boulder. Through September 2020, $28.75 million has been spent in the effort (including staff time) according to an information packet shared with city council ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.

Municipalization won’t be discussed Tuesday; the IP was a regularly scheduled quarterly update. It’s been a busy few months for the muni: a finalized settlement agreement, design work neared completion and federal regulators weighed in on Boulder’s attempt to use Xcel’s substations.

In early September, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) dismissed Boulder’s application for interconnection at six substations, “because Boulder does not own or have a reasonable expectation of owning the facilities” in the near future.

The ruling could potentially delay formation of a city utility, the Daily Camera reported this month, but it may not. Boulder can still obtain the permission it needs, either by going back to FERC or through a condemnation case.

Assuming voters don’t approve an Xcel franchise (ballot measure 2C) Boulder is years away from an operational municipal utility. A final go/no-go vote won’t occur until 2022, “barring additional delay.

“At this point in time,” staff wrote, “because of the appeal of the second condemnation case and the pause between the agreements and the vote, a go/no-go decision in 2021 is highly unlikely.”

Staff is no longer planning to draw from the general fund to support work on municipalization. The Utility Occupation Tax expires in 2022 unless extended and repurposed as part of the Xcel settlement (ballot measure 2D); those funds will be used to pursue renewable energy above and beyond what Xcel provides, as well as utility assistance for lower-income residents.

The muni did borrow $1.4 million from the general fund from 2012-2017. If 2C passes, staff plans to return to council in early 2021 “to discuss a funding plan to pay outstanding bill associated with the formation of a municipal electric utility.”

— Shay Castle, boulderbeatnews@gmail.com, @shayshinecastle

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