Boulder submits plan to take over Xcel Energy electric assets

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BOULDER, Colo. -- The City of Boulder submitted a plan Wednesday to take over substations and power lines in the city limits. According to city spokesperson Sarah Huntley, the city wants to control its own municipal power in order to move from coal powered electricity to renewable resources like wind, hydro and solar.

An application was submitted to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) asking for approval to transfer the electricity infrastructure.

"We've always maintained that we want to make a local utility for more renewable energy," said Huntley. "If we could harness the sun and wind and water to create electricity, we could enjoy clean electricity without having to be in sacrifice mode, it could really be an opportunity for our community to grow in the clean tech economy."

According to Huntley, the city started talking about energy independence in 2009. In 2011, voters gave the go-ahead to the city to pursue ways to split from Xcel Energy. A split would give the city control over infrastructure. So, Boulder could decide to pursue renewable energy companies or they could continue to buy power from Xcel.

This is the second time the city has submitted an application for approval. The first time the PUC turned down the proposal, but came back to the city with a series of changes to improve the plan. Representatives for the city feel like they have met those suggestions.

"This analysis by our engineers is much more informed, and really detailed and robust," said Huntley.

Still, some are skeptical. Karey Christ-Janer has been following the project since the beginning. She said she initially thought separation from Xcel was a good idea, but has since changed her mind.

"The issue that finally got me to turn opinion about the situation was being concerned that the city could be responsible for Xcel's costs and attorney fees, which is uncertain," said Christ-Janer.

She said a better alternative would be Boulder working with Xcel to pursue more forms of renewable energy.

"The industry is just changing in such a dramatic fashion in a way that's going to be good for consumers in the long run,  I don't think that the city will be able to go faster necessarily," she said.

An open house for the proposal is being held on October 10 at Boulder Jewish Community Center at 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Representatives for Boulder will present the plan to the public.