Muni 101: A deeper dive into renewables

Other Muni 101 stories:
Basics and background
Who’s arguing what?
Boulder, Xcel settlement: What’s in it?

Xcel today sources 30% of its energy from renewables. It plans to be at 55% by 2025, Jackson said in August.

The company’s goals for 80% carbon reduction by 2030 are not the same as Boulder’s goal of 100% renewable electricity by that year, but the bid to limit greenhouse gas emissions will necessitate a shift to renewables. Jackson says the mix should be 65-70% renewable by 2030. Formal plans for Xcel’s power supply, rates and more won’t be made public until next year.

Boulder can get 90% renewables the first day a municipal utility is operational, according to recently received bids from power providers. There are some caveats, most notably stranded costs, which could be owed if Boulder chooses to buy power from anyone other than Xcel. (See Cost section)

Depending on what stranded costs are owed — which would be determined via negotiation or a court case and a ruling from federal regulators — Boulder may keep buying power from Xcel to lower stranded costs, which would lower the share of renewables the city relies upon.

The city has modeled three years of continued power purchase from Xcel, based on a worst-case stranded cost estimate, though the city declined to name a worst-case dollar amount.

There are several ways for stranded costs to be reduced. Xcel has a legal obligation to try and sell the power it planned for Boulder to someone else. Boulder’s own power supply cost can also be taken into consideration, further reducing the stranded costs it owes.

Whatever is left over after those two avenues are explored, Boulder would have to pay.

The city contends that the savings it will realize by purchasing wholesale renewables elsewhere — about $30 million a year, based on a 2018 request for indicative pricing — will help to pay off stranded costs. The contents of the RFIP and a recent competitive bidding process are not publicly available.

— Shay Castle,, @shayshinecastle

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