In sync with its reputation as one of the most progressive cities in the country, Boulder, Colorado has come up with a bold new vision for its local energy system. According to Al Jazeera America, the city plans to shed its current private energy provider, Xcel Energy and put in place its own, municipally-owned power utility. Supporters of the effort say such a publicly owned power provider would invest in more clean energy that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions while keeping power bills down for locals. They’re also hoping that a successful transition to a locally-owned model will stand as an example for other cities that want to follow suit.
The move is part of a greater movement towards “municipalization,” which the city embarked on in 2010, that saw it transfer private corporations to city ownership – and the council decided to end its 20-year agreement with Xcel, which is known for sourcing coal-fired energy. City officials not only wanted to cut their carbon emissions, and hesitate to enter into another two-decade relationship with a company they weren’t sure was going to keep up to speed with industry practices and renewable technologies.
“Xcel was not able to do a franchise that was less than 20 years,” Sara Huntley, a Boulder city government spokeswoman told Al Jazeera America. “We were really looking for a 5- or 10-year franchise, mainly because the industry is in such a state of change right now.”
Xcel says it’s cut its emissions by 22 percent since 2005, but Boulder environmentalists say a city-owned utility could cut carbon emissions by as much as half. The decision as to whether the “municipalization” of Boulder’s energy will happen rests with Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission, which is set to rule on a motion filed by Xcel to dismiss Boulder’s application to create a public utility.