BOULDER – Months of intense work have resulted in the creation of the metrics the city of Boulder could use to decide whether or not it should create a municipal utility, the city’s energy strategist said Thursday.

Heather Bailey, the executive director of energy strategy and electric utility development, outlined the progress she and her staff have made at a public forum hosted by Clean Energy Action and 350.org.

Their most important task has been the creation of metrics the city can use to see if a proposed utility would meet criteria in the City Charter, Bailey said. The criteria will be presented to the City Council at a public meeting next Thursday, Nov. 15, and the council can approve, modify or reject them.

Publicly discussing criteria will ensure that a municipal utility could meet charter requirements and reassure Boulder residents the process was transparent and thorough.

“At the end of the day, this project is accountable to the community, and the community needs to know we looked at the things we needed to, and we had an open mind,” Bailey said.

The criteria are intended to measure whether a possible utility would be more reliable and as or less expensive than is Xcel Energy Inc., the owner and operator of Boulder’s power system. They also are mandated to make sure the power generation sources are greener.

Bailey proposes the city’s cost comparison be based on the average rate charged per kilowatt hour. The city would divide users into three categories – residential, commercial and industrial – to make the comparison.
The rates would have to generate enough revenue to cover for the new utility’s operating expenses and debt payments plus an amount equal to 25 percent of debt payments.

The system also must be as reliable as Xcel Energy’s. Bailey recommends using industry standard measures of interruption frequency and duration.
To meet the city’s greenhouse-gas reduction goal, the city could create five- and 20-year plans to decrease carbon emissions and increase the proportion of power generated from renewable sources. The different time frames would allow the city to adapt to emerging technologies, Bailey said.

City staff and their consultants are trying to determine if a utility could not only meet but exceed charter requirements, Bailey said.

The energy strategy staff, which consists of Bailey and five to seven city employees who are working on the project alongside their other jobs with the city, is working with outside stakeholders and consultants to help evaluate their plan.

The Boulder Chamber is among the stakeholders looking at the plan. The Chamber opposed the 2011 ballot measure that was narrowly passed and gave the city the authority to municipalize. In a letter to City Council, it continues to question the wisdom of the plan, including the basis of the rate comparison.
The chamber noted in comments to the city that Xcel Energy has different rate tiers tailored to industrial users. The city’s method of comparison would not take those rate schedules, of which there are 27, into account.

The energy team acknowledged that in its memo to the council and said it would like to take the different rates into account in its rate comparison, but Xcel Energy would not provide the city with details about the different schedules, Bailey said.

The proposal being submitted to the council is online at www.bouldersenergyfuture.com.