The time has come for Boulder to become the green town it wants and needs to be, but it won't be without a citizen fight.
The City of Boulder currently has a franchise agreement with Xcel Energy, which allows Xcel to put its equipment in the city and act as Boulder's primary energy utility. This contract for their Valmont Coal Plant expires at the end of this year though, granting us the perfect opportunity to extract ourselves from this dirty, sooty, slurry-filled strangehold.
If the citizens of Boulder decide they no longer want to be an accomplice to Colorado's staggering reliance on coal, we have the option to vote this way. By August 3rd, the City Council must decide whether they will put this option on the ballot: the option to municipalize our city's energy supply.
Municipalization will allow the citizens of Boulder to chose where we get our energy, allowing us to transition to renewables. It will also allow us to stop paying Xcel's shareholders and CEO, Richard Kelly, who last year received $11.3 million—more than twice as much as he received in 2008 (1). That profit comes from us, and it's time we voted to say "stop." Stop the high prices for dirty energy and dirty profiteering.
Colorado is currently 86% coal-powered and that number has only gone up over the years, not down. The Valmont Coal Plant—and all others—emits noxious air pollutants including mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon dioxide, estimated at over one million tons per year. Due to Colorado's reliance on coal, our CO2 emission factor of 1.93 lb/kWh is quite high compared to the U.S. average of 1.34 lb/kWh (2).
The Valmont Coal Plant also wastes an enormous amount of water: two million gallons every single day to slurry the coal.
Boulder's goal needs to be to 'decarbonize' our electric supply by replacing carbon-intensive coal burning with clean renewable energy such as wind and solar power, which are so abundant in Colorado.
Loveland, Fort Collins, and Aspen are all municipalized, and Marin County and Cleveland have both recently fought their utilities providers and broken free to become municipalized.
Based off of Xcel's contemptible tactics, it's clear that we will not win this without a fight. They will probably say that our rates will skyrocket (when, in fact, they have already increased our rates 3x in the past 4 years); they will likely say the excise tax is something new we will have to pay (when, in actuality, we would be getting rid of Xcel as the middle man and would pay our city directly for its services); they will probably say lots of things to try to keep their $646 million in pure profit every year, but I think Boulder residents are eager enough to reduce their large carbon footprints that they will see through all that.
If you live in Boulder and want to do something about this, here's what it's going to take:
1. First, email (and email often!) City Council at email@example.com and tell them you want municipalization. Tell them you want to vote against the Xcel franchise and for the excise tax and tell them you want renewable energy (and not just some fake windpower crap from Xcel). Please note that it is important to both vote against the renewal of the Xcel franchise and for the excise tax—otherwise, the city will be out $3.9 million a year.
2. Attend the public hearing on August 3rd to voice all of this in person. I'll be there wearing a topic-appropriate t-shirt, and I invite you to join me in this.
3. Contact me and we'll talk. There is something stewing that I can't necessarily reveal here, but it's gonna be good.
Activists at the Valmont Coal Plant in April '10
Note: This is my first post that is in response to another blog post. I believe the issue was mis-characterized and one-sided and felt I had to respond (with the other side). I hope you've enjoyed the retaliatory nature of this post.