Boulder’s Municipalization of Electric Utility Referendum

January 7, 2012

50.4% – 49.6% (13,353 – 13,141): the margin of “victory” in Boulder’s municipalization referendum (occupation tax extension) on November 1st was 2011’s top Boulder story. We’re a progressive and well-educated town, but consensus on the way forward eluded us, even as more violent weather events occur world-wide and rapidly warming polar regions scream out for aggressive climate change-slowing solutions. I’d wager greater than 85% of Boulder’s voters agree on the City’s climate action goals. Our debate is about means and methods, and how to get the most bang for our bucks, sooner than later.

Should we immediately seek comprehensive legislative changes (i.e., community choice aggregation, local power generation flexibility, PUC reform, etc.)? Of course. Xcel may want to gird for battle, but isn’t half a loaf better than none? Municipalization supporters should reconsider spending hundreds of millions of dollars for wires, poles and transformers, when we might rent them, leave their maintenance and replacement to Xcel, and focus our energy investments on conservation (insulation, door and window sealing and upgrade incentives and partnerships, etc.), plus renewables (roof top and community solar, geothermal, hydro and wind power installations), along with natural gas conversion of the Valmont coal plant.

The business model for promoting energy conservation, and managing generation and distribution of energy resources, must evolve systemically and quickly or we’re going to experience a world of hurt. Boulder’s razor-thin November election margin screams out for a more comprehensive approach – one that has regional, national and international potential for rapid implementation. Carpe Diem!

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