April 30, 2013

Calling for a Sustainable Future. {Boulder}

When you think of City Council, you don’t usually imagine a packed room, full of young people, raising flowers and raising hell.

On April 16, I listened as scores of young people pleaded with City Council to consider Boulder’s transition into a green energy future, focused on slashing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change.

In 2011, voters approved measures 2B and 2C, which empowered the city to explore options on whether to break away from Xcel and create a city run electric utility. Since then, consultants have been working with the city in creating a comprehensive model researching six potential options over a 20 year period. Results show that we can supply customers with lower rates and equal reliability while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent.

On April 16, City Council was charged with the question: Is it feasible and possible to municipalize our energy?

Executive Director of Energy Strategy and Electric Utility Development, Heather Bailey and Executive Manager of Denton Municipal Energy, Mike Grimm, both experts on creating municipal utilities, stressed their confidence in moving forward. Denton, Texas has actually incorporated 40 percent wind power while simultaneously reducing rates by 15 percent.

Boulder residents echoed the expert’s confidence: over 50 Boulderites gave public testimony with the overwhelming majority urging City Council to keep moving forward. Many emphasized the need to transition away from our 250 year reliance on coal and making renewables the primary source of Boulder’s energy future. City Council recognized the public’s concerns, voting 8-1 in favor of moving forward, reassuring the creation of a local utility will be further analyzed.

All eyes are on Boulder as Xcel starts to fear the potential of a domino effect. If we create a local utility bridging a path to a clean energy future while lowering rates for consumers, others will follow suit. Minneapolis, home to Xcel’s headquarters, is considering creating a local utility. Xcel’s homebase is thinking about the pink slip? Not good. Are Xcel’s methods in the generation and distribution of energy a thing of the past? Absolutely, and as more cities start to realize this, they’ll start to turn toward local utilities. Xcel’s worst nightmare. Sure enough, we’re bridging a path for the U.S. to finally adopt climate policy on par with much of Europe.

In the coming months, Council will continue working with experts to study and evaluate the proposed transition toward a local utility. I believe Boulder’s progressive values make it the ideal city to create a cleaner energy utility and if we continue to show the support seen at the April 16th City Council meeting, I know we can adopt a local utility. I hope we will cement Boulder as national leader in sustainability while providing other cities with a blueprint to a clean energy future.


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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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