Project Overview

Voters approved a new franchise agreement with Xcel Energy in November 2020. By passing the franchise agreement, voters also approved a new partnership between the city and Xcel Energy.

The partnership agreement seeks to make significant progress on Boulder’s clean energy and climate goals. Under the potential deal, the city and Xcel Energy would work together in a modern grid planning partnership, aimed at helping the city achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

Governance

Several groups, including the public, provide input and oversight into the partnership.

Duties: Responsible for oversight of the partnership agreement, including communication and collaboration between the city and Xcel to achieve the partnership's goals.

Meeting Frequency: In 2021 and 2022, the Executive Team will meet four times per year. After 2022, the team will meet at least twice per year.

Members

CITY OF BOULDER XCEL ENERGY

City Manager

Executive Leadership (Climate and city infrastructure)

President of Xcel Energy - Colorado

Executive leadership (Community Relations and Customer Accounts)

Duties: Oversee distribution planning and innovative grid projects and provide community guidance to community programs. The Project Oversight team will appoint teams for each project.

Meeting Frequency: Monthly

Members

CITY OF BOULDER XCEL ENERGY

Director of Climate Initiatives

Chief Sustainability and Resilience Officer

Electrical Engineer

Energy Strategy Advisor

Others as determined by the city

The city manager may select alternates that have equivalent positions or knowledge.

Manager of Local Government Affairs

Manager of Key Accounts

Distribution Project Manager; and

Others as determined by Xcel

Duties: The Community Advisory Panel regularly reviews and discusses energy issues, including decarbonization of Boulder’s electricity supply and use energy efficiency and demand-side management programs for customers, and overall local and state-wide initiatives that are related to the goals of the partnership

Meeting Frequency: Quarterly

Members: The city and Xcel appointed 18 members of the community that represent residents, businesses and CU Boulder.

Key elements of the partnership

The goal of the city's partnership is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with gas and electricity consumption, electrify, and boost resilience and equity in Boulder. Specifically, Boulder and Xcel will work together to achieve 100% renewables by 2030 and eliminate electricity-sector emissions.

The city and Xcel will share information and collaboratively innovate projects that Xcel can scale across their system. They will also work with other partners like CU, federal labs and other businesses to develop, test and promote new technologies. Projects in Boulder will not cost customers outside of Boulder without state regulatory approval.

The city and Xcel will work together to access potential grant funding to help achieve the goals of the partnership and will work together on regulatory changes that will make meeting the goals of the partnership easier.

The partnership agreement includes provisions that set forth carbon emission reduction targets for Xcel Energy between now and 2030:

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Graph depicting emissions reduction targets for Xcel Energy .

The Xcel Energy-City of Boulder partnership agreement includes provisions that set forth carbon emission reduction targets for Xcel Energy between now and 2030.

Year Emissions
2005 Baseline: 33.9 million tons emitted
2019 42% reduction: 19.5 million tons emitted (actual)
2022 52% reduction: 16.6 million tons emitted (target)
2024 61% reduction: 13.6 million tons emitted (target)
2027 67% reduction: 11.5 million toms emitted (target)
2030 80% reduction: 6.9 million tons emitted (requirement)

If Xcel does not achieve these targets, the city will have the opportunity to opt out of the franchise in 2023, 2025 and 2028.

The potential agreement includes $33 million dollars in undergrounding investment by Xcel Energy, with approximately half of the investment being made in the first five years of the franchise. Undergrounding helps improve system reliability.

Under the potential agreement, the city and Xcel would work together to achieve Boulder’s renewable energy target: 100% by 2030. The city and Xcel would work together to update Boulder’s electric grid, share data and develop innovative demonstration projects under the guidance of a community board. The parties have also committed to work collaboratively to change current regulations that limit innovation and local renewable development:

  • Elimination or substantial increase of the state’s 120% limitation on on-site generation
  • Development of a new tariff to facilitate the rapid conversion of bus fleets to electric busses
  • Removal of barriers to large amounts of local distributed generation
  • Facilitation of microgrids in specific projects at Chautauqua and Alpine Balsam
  • Data-sharing

Yes.

Most of the time, cities have franchise agreements with public utilities operating within their boundaries. Past franchise agreements between the city and Xcel Energy provided the company the right to use the city’s streets, public places and public easements to serve Boulder customers. Franchise Agreements dictate the long-term relationship between the utility and the city and can provide a platform for unique partnership opportunities that may help the city’s progress toward its energy goals.

Between 2010 and 2020, the city and Xcel have operated without a franchise agreement while the city explored the creation of a city-run electric utility.

The new franchise agreement, approved by voters in 2020 allows the city could exit at certain times, described in this table:

Year Reason to exit franchise agreement
2023 Failure to meet emissions standard
2025 Failure to meet emissions standard
2026 Any reason
2028 Failure to meet emissions standard
2031 Any reason
2036 Any reason
2041 End of franchise

The agreement maintains the city’s ability to municipalize in the future if the community opts-out of the franchise. The potential agreement includes several items that preserve much of the city’s municipalization work to-date and remove potential future barriers to municipalization, including:

  • A $200 million cap on any condemnation award, including acquisition cost, real property interests, going concern, damages to the remainder and purchase of two existing substations
  • Agreement on issues related to substations and commitments from Xcel that the company will pay the cost of any updates to the existing substation interconnection studies and design drawings
  • Agreement that the PUC orders from Sept. 14, 2017 and Oct. 28 stand and apply to separation of the system if the city pursues municipalization in the future. The list of assets from the Oct. 28 decision may be used by the city.