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Colorado City Misses the Mark for Municipalization

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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

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  • May 6, 2020

For a while we've been comparing two Colorado cities and their requests for muncipalization.  While both Pueblo and Boulder were seeking muncipalization, their approaches have been very different.  In Boulder, CO, the community has been competing for power since December 2018.  The city hopes to develop a community-owned local electric utility instead of using Xcel.  District Court Judge Andrew MacDonald has granted Xcel Energy's motion to stay the City of Boulder's condemnation case.  This case will be stayed until the final resolution of pending appellate issues.  The initial lawsuits by Xcel Energy against Boulder involved cost limitations.  By not including hypothetical cost limitations, Pueblo hoped to avoid similar litigation.  Several challenges must be overcome for the process to begin.  Separating lines and poles from those remaining with Black Hills in Pueblo and Xcel in Boulder could leave some without power.  Boulder hopes to establish clean energy, stable rates, a robust and flexible grid and local voter input into system management.  However, for Pueblo the journey may have reached its end.  

This week, after much debate and several television ads, voters in Pueblo, CO strongly opposed the plan for a municipal electric utility.  As of Tuesday night, the vote was 19,727 against the measure to 5.930 for it.  It was unclear exactly how many ballots were still uncounted but the clerk's office was certain there weren't enough to make up the difference.  With Pueblo's efforts thwarted, Black Hills Energy spokesperson, Julie Rodriguez said, "We're grateful for the results of today's special election in Pueblo, where voters have chosen to continue receiving reliable electric service from Black Hills Energy while maintaining our existing franchise agreement."  Still committed to customer satisfaction, she concluded, "We look forward to serving our customers in Pueblo and Southern Colorado for many years to come." 

We will have to wait and see if Boulder can avoid the same outcome.  Can Xcel apply lessons learned from Black Hills Energy or are the issues too unique to apply in both cases?

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