Conservation Makes Cents for Xcel

April 30, 2011

Recent polling showing citizen “uncertainty” concerning whether to establish a municipal energy utility and toss Xcel should surprise no one. It’s complicated. Should the City spend hundred(s) of millions of dollars buying Xcel’s pipes and wires? Should we, instead, invest the money rehabilitating structures (commercial and residential) to reduce our consumption of natural gas and electrons? Admittedly, all energy is not created equal. Some, including most “renewables,” are sustainable. Others borrow from the distant past, squandering a diminishing supply of solar energy stored in carbon-based fuels to support profligate lifestyles today.

Buying Xcel’s wires, pipes and other infrastructure will be no mean feat. I don’t expect Xcel to roll over and play dead. They’ve invested a lot in Boulder over the years, including quite a lot recently (smart meters, solar panel rebates, etc.). A great day for lawyers is not necessarily good news for taxpayers.

Where would you rather invest your money? What if we spent City dollars insulating buildings, replacing leaky windows, switching out light bulbs, installing solar panels, etc., instead of paying off Xcel? Buying efficiency seems to be the wiser long term investment. Whatever happens with the cost of energy and the negative impacts of global climate change, reducing energy consumption, itself, is our Holy Grail, isn’t it? Xcel makes money selling us electrons and gas. Let’s figure out how to create profits for them by providing us with light and heat. Then, conservation will make “cents,” for Boulder, Xcel, our region and the planet.

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