Xcel Energy doesn’t find this commercial funny.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Oct 1, 2011
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Vote Yes.

“Yes, let’s look at our options and save, say, $14 million a year.”

I don’t even mind “NO”…I just haven’t heard from a single “NO”er who isn’t a commercial or getting paid. I’d love to see a genuine discussion. As far as I can tell, voting “YES” doesn’t mean we leave Xcel, it means we figure out if we can do so affordably and more sustainably. If we can’t, we still can vote to stick with Xcel. So why would anyone be against “YES”? This isn’t a liberal/business thing…even Republican buddies of mine love the idea of saving $14 million a year we could plow into our schools or parks or lower taxes or solar or wind. Xcel seems to be operating out of fear for their fat, fat, greedy, ungreen bottomline and the way their attacking “YES” makes me less open to “NO.”


Yes is really a maybe—it just means voting to research if we can save money through municapalization while increasing renewable energy. Stability and affordability would be a requirement to go forward. If couldn’t achieve savings and stability, then we can still go with Xcel. Xcel is afraid. Very, very afraid. They’re hiring phone spammers (not even local Boulder phone spammers) and spamming youtube, internet generally with their ads.

Transcript of a recent spam phone call I received:

Received 10 calls over last week from random number. Finally answered today, figuring it was a gorgeous woman who wanted to have a deeply meaningful relationship with me.
Uh, hello?
… Is this Way–Way-lon, Lewis?
Hi I’m calling from the Boulder Smart Energy Coalition—the Boulder Smart Energy…
Yah! I know you. I know all about it.
The Boulder Smart Energy Coalition….goes on to tell me all about it.
Do you know how you’re voting on 2B 2C?
Are you voting No on 2B 2C?
Nope! I’m voting hellllll yes!
You’re not voting no?
Okay, thank you… <click>


“The citizens of Boulder will be voting on one of the most important ballot measures in America this year,” Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said at the Boulder County Democrat’s annual Truman Dinner on Saturday evening. “You will be voting on the basic right of the community to control its own destiny.”

Click here for: Top 10 Lies about Municipalization.

There sure are a lot of talking points flying around out there about Boulder’s move to create a municipal utility. And I know you’ve seen the online ads that Xcel is spending millions on. Here’s a point by point rebuttal to each and every lie and myth Xcel is spreading. Read this, and you’ll definitely be the most informed guy or gal at the bar tonight.

MYTH #1: The city of Boulder isn’t capable of running an electric utility
Cities can and often do run their own public power utilities. In fact, there are 29 other municipal utilities in Colorado, including Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Longmont that have been running municipal utilities for decades. City officials won’t be running the day-to-day management of the utility, but would probably contract out those services to a company in that line of work. Also, Boulder already runs the utility that provides water to the city and it’s credited as having some of the best water in the country. In just the last few years Boulder has been ranked as “America’s ‘Brainiest’ City” (Portfolio.com), “Most Educated City in America” (Forbes Magazine), and the “Smartest City in America” (Forbes Magazine), we believe that we are well equipped to handle our own power.

MYTH #2: Creating a utility is handing over a blank check to the city council
Other than being a zinger of a talking point, this one just doesn’t make any sense. The language in 2C outlines that very stringent financial requirements must be met before the city can move forward.  Once given the authority to create the utility, the city will purchase bonds (like a big loan from a bank) to finance the initial acquisition costs of the infrastructure. The rates collected over a few decades will pay off the bonds (not taxes). This is the same way cities pay for all sorts of things like roads, schools, bridges, etc. It is pretty much the same thing that Xcel does when they want to build a new coal-fired power plant. Additionally, Boulder’s bond rating is currently AAA, better than the US government. Xcel’s bond rating is BBB.

MYTH #3: We’re moving too fast and don’t know all the risks
Quite the contrary. The city has considered breaking away from Xcel every time the 20-year contract has been up for renewal—in 1950, 1970, and 1990. Over the past several years the city has spent over $1 million with national experts to study the feasibility of creating a municipal power utility and the results have consistently shown that it is in Boulder’s best interest to pursue this. The only information we don’t have exact numbers for at this point, such as costs associated with purchasing the polls and wires from Xcel, can only be figured out if we take this step to create a utility board and settle on a price in court. Don’t forget, passing 2B and 2C does not guarantee or require that we will get a municipal utility. It only gets us a court mandate to have Xcel play nice and once we know the numbers, there are clear requirements written into the ballot language that will determine if it is cost effective to proceed.

MYTH #4: A municipal utility will result in higher utility rates and taxes
First off, the utility will be paid by rates collected from energy bills, NOT FROM TAXES.
Second, if you look at our neighbors (you know, the ones who have municipalelectric utilities like Longmont, Lyons and Fort Collins) you’ll see that most municipal electric utility in Colorado have cheaper rates than Xcel customers. If 2C passes, it will be written in the city charter (sort of like the city’s version of a constitution) that rates are not allowed to be more than the rates offered by Xcel energy at the time of acquisition. Staying with Xcel does not mean rates won’t increase—in fact, Xcel’s rates have increased by 20% in just the last four years. And the more a municipal utility invests in renewable energy, the less likely our rates will increase in the future because the cost of renewables are falling while the cost of coal is inherently going up.

MYTH #5: The city council doesn’t know anything about running a utility and shouldn’t be in charge
Xcel is right: the city council members don’t have experience running an electric utility. That’s why the municipal utility would be overseen by a utility board made up of technical experts and industry representatives (very similar to how the city currently runs the city’s water utility). The utility board would probably contract out to one of the many utility companies out there to run the day-to-day services that Xcel currently provides as our electric utility.

MYTH #6: Once we create a municipal power utility there is no turning back
Actually, the roadmap to move forward was purposely developed to have several points where the city can decide to stop its efforts in forming a municipal utility. In order to get a “green light” at each step along the way, the process must continue to produce results and data that show the project to be feasible with rates and reliability that are consistent with what Xcel currently delivers. If at any point it is no longer feasible, the city will stop pursuing the local utility and come back to the negotiating table with Xcel.

MYTH #7: Xcel is one of the greenest power utilities
Well, sort of. Xcel, headquartered in Minneapolis, MN, is a very large corporation and provides services in 8 different states and therefore it does provide a considerable amount more renewable energy than other investor owned power utilities. But, at the end of the day, they still provide the city of Boulder with 90% fossil fuels.

MYTH #8: If the city runs the utility, we’ll have constant and unexpected power outages
Actually, the other 29 municipal utilities in Colorado have the some of the most reliable electricity in the state. On the contrary, Xcel’s Boulder territory has the worst reliability in the state, according to the Public Utilities Commission. There are technical reasons for this, but the point is this: the city is required to prove reliability will be the same or better than Xcel before it’s able to create the utility.

MYTH #9: There’s no guarantee that the city will provide more renewable energy than Xcel
The major purpose and goal why the city wants to break from Xcel is to have the freedom to increase the level of renewable energy on Boulder’s electrical grid. Current modeling shows the city could switch to 40% renewables with a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas if it ran a municipal utility. As the cost of renewable energy continued to decrease, the city would purchase more. On the contrary, Xcel owns many coal-fired power plants in the state and is committed to continue to sell large amounts of fossil fuel energy in order to pay off its investments.

MYTH #10: Didn’t the Daily Camera newspaper say this would cost $600 million?
This is an old trick in the book (maybe not the oldest, but a damn old one). The Daily Camera article that Xcel loves to quote was actually quoting a misleading statement said by Xcel. In other words, Xcel is quoting itself when they refer to that newspaper article. Consultants and technical experts have estimated the acquisition costs to be significantly cheaper than this. But, again, the only way to know the true costs is to pass 2B & 2C in order to have a judge decide the acquisition cost.

BONUS MYTH: Xcel put a wind farm offer on the table to provide 90% renewable energy to Boulder
Not so much. The deal Xcel offered isn’t what they claim it to be. First, the wind deal would have cost millions per year and would just be placing all the risk on Boulder. Second, Boulder would have been purchasing Renewable Energy Credits–we could have claimed it was our wind power but the energy created would have actually flowed onto the still predominantly fossil fuel powered Xcel grid. It would not have been a pipeline of wind delivered to our front door that Xcel would have liked us to believe. Once Xcel withdrew the wind offer, Xcel went ahead and signed the contract to build the wind farm anyway. In other words, Xcel was just trying to get Boulder to pay for a big wind project that was already going to happen. Further, when a predominantly coal-based company like Xcel runs a wind farm, a considerable amount of the wind energy is wasted because it’s more profitable for them to burn more coal instead (this is called “curtailment”). ~ Steve Fenberg


Bonus videos:

Speaking to the Boulder City Council, Sam Weaver – a volunteer Energy Modeler explains how the Homer energy model works. The good news for the city of Boulder, Colorado is that by municipalizing the city can achieve 40% renewables at rate parity with Xcel Energy and a remarkable 2/3s reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Want both “sides”? (One side is bought and paid for by Xcel, spending $10 million campaigning against municipalization in attempt to protect their vast annual profits). Debate:




About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


4 Responses to “Xcel Energy doesn’t find this commercial funny.”

  1. elephantjournal says:

    The Top 10 is from Steve Fenberg of New Era Colorado…I'll let him reply. I'll just say: Tim, nitpick anytime, you know what you're talking about! ~ W.

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Judith Ansara Gass <[email protected]>

    Friends – I have been trying to gather information about the ballot issues –
    especially the one concerning Boulder's contract with Excel 2B and 2C

    This is a summary from someone who strongly believes these initiatives
    should be passed. Assuming this is accurate (and I do trust this source),
    then we really should be voting for and encouraging others to vote for both
    of these initiatives.

    read on:

    Xcel is really slamming the town, hitting each house 3 times with paid people
    and beginning with a lie: "Do you want to give Boulder a blank check?" This
    is not what would happen as I believe Xcel well knows. The more house parties
    we have to explain the ballot issues, the better chance we have to fight back.
    Doing it in the next two weeks would be best, as ballots will be received
    beginning the 10th, I believe, and some people fill them out right away. If
    you want to do a house party, ask Ken or one of his comrades to present and
    email him at [email protected].

    Here's some info on 2B and 2C that I wrote up and which Ken says is accurate.

    • If we go with Xcel, they have a coal commitment to 2069. To a large extent
    we will be with that, like it or not. With municipalization we can reduce
    greenhouse gas emissions 60% and increase renewables to 40%, still with rate
    parity with Xcel in just a few years.

    • Because of Xcel's massive and continuing investments in coal ($400 million
    more to come in the next few years), we believe that Xcel cannot go above
    about 30% renewables – coal fired power plants and variable renewables like
    sun and wind do not work well together.

    • If we pass 2B2C, we will have the option to do something different. We are
    NOT committed to municipalizing. There are a number of offramps we have, put
    on because of the city charter. If, for example, we are 1% over Xcel’s rates
    at that time with our start-up rates, then we stop.

    • If we don't pass 2B2C, we can't find out how much it will cost us to do
    this. Only when a judge rules about stranded costs etcl, can we find out the
    real numbers, the real costs for the city.

    • If we don't pass 2B2C we are in a very poor negotiating situation with
    respect to the company. We don't automatically get a 20-year contract, but
    after a few years (when the occupancy tax which replaces the franchise
    expires), we will have to go to a contract. Xcel wants 20 years, and on what
    grounds can we refuse?

    • If we do pass 2B2C, we may well not municipalize, but we have the
    possibility of doing so and if we don't (to repeat) go forward, we can
    negotiate with them from a position of at least some strength because we can
    threaten to go back to the ballot box, which will make them nervous because
    we'll be on record as citizens who trust our city more than we trust Xcel.

    • As Ken says, in the past few years Xcel has built a huge new coal fired
    power plant in Pueblo at the worst possible time in human history, stopped the
    solar industry twice by abruptly stopping the rebate program, implemented a
    Smart Grid where we are seeing almost no benefits, costs went over by 300%,
    and where the term "cost-effective' doesn't seem to have been considered in
    the design, and now they want to invest $400 million more in the near future
    in refurbishing old coal plants so they can pollute for another 20 years. All
    of this under PUC regulation. We have no say at the PUC, but we can have a say
    in Boulder.

    • It is just not in their interest to do a lot in that direction because of
    their new coal plants. The company feels that if it says yes to us, then
    other locales will follow, which is true.
    Longmont, Fort Collins, CO Springs have municipalized. Why can't we?

    • To me it seems worth the risk because it's the right thing to do. Coal is
    just very bad. Some people don't trust the city to do it right, but I don't
    know why they are trusting Xcel, which has made a lot of mistakes and has cost
    us quite a number of rate hikes. I don't understand why people trust Xcel
    more except that it hides the mistakes better. Those mistakes account for
    some of those rate hikes, by the way.

    We do a good job with water. Boulder City Council has a blank check on our
    water system right now. For that we have: award-winning water quality, at
    rates in the middle of our neighbors, with an amazing AAA bond rating (better
    than the federal government!), with a source that is the envy of the front
    range, that generates significant excess electricity, that is sold for more
    than $2 million per year, that helps keep our water rates low. http://www.renewablesyes.org &lt ;http://www.renewablesyes.org/&gt;

    Many thanks,

  3. 123CommonSense says:

    I missed this "spending $10 million campaigning". Wow, thats part of the problem with the pro side, they just make things up out of thin air that have no connection to reality and indicate little understanding of math. I've seen nothing anywhere to indicate a number that size isn't pure fantasy.
    They may spend a lot, but thats silly.

  4. […] on ballot measures 2B & 2C, check out RenewablesYes.org. And be sure to read the “Top Ten Lies About Municipalization.” Since 2006, New Era Colorado has been working to empower young people in Colorado […]