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Boulder Officials: Utility Decision Won't Come Soon

Boulder officials are cheering the narrow victory of two ballot measures that will allow the city to move ahead with plans to start a municipal utility.  But the city also says the results don’t mean the city will sever its ties with Xcel Energy overnight.

Initiatives 2B and 2C asked voters for permission to start a city-run utility much like what’s already in place in nearby Fort Collins.  But more importantly, one of the measures raises taxes to actually fund the engineering and legal teams that will study whether such a move is feasible.

City of Boulder spokeswoman Sarah Huntley says a final decision may not come for more than three years.

"In the meantime, Boulder customers will still be served by Xcel Energy," Huntley said. "A decision to form a municipal utility has not yet been made and may not be made depending on the information we continue to gather."

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Boulder officials said they’re sensitive to the close vote and the fact that some residents – particularly in the business community - remain bitterly opposed to so-called municipalization. 

For its part, Xcel Energy calls Tuesday’s outcome disappointing.  And at this point it’s not yet clear what will happen to some of the company’s clean-energy incentive programs that have been especially popular in the Boulder market.  Michelle Aguayo is a spokesperson for the company. 

"At this point, Boulder will need to make some early decisions about the path it wants to follow," said spokesperson Michelle Aguayo. "We do not want to invest in programs or resources that will no longer be useful to our statewide system and our other customers if we no longer serve Boulder." 

Xcel says it remains skeptical that Boulder would be able to start its own utility and match the company’s rates, let alone the amount of renewable power it currently provides.

This story was updated from an earlier version to include comments from Xcel Energy. 


Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.
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