Photo by Les Rhoades
One of the election victories you may have missed in the past week came out of Boulder, Colorado, where voters approved two ballot measures to allow the city to break away from their investor-owned utility, Xcel Energy, and look to instead create their own progressive municipal utility. TreeHugger previously wrote about the result of the election and what it may mean for Boulder and Xcel.
This achievement on the path towards more renewable energy took some hard work, and will continue to do so in the coming months, but for now it’s considered a fantastic grassroots victory by those involved.
"This is important because we didn’t see a path toward a renewable energy or a carbon-free future while being tied to Xcel," said Steve Welter, political chair of the Indian Peaks Group of the Rocky Mountain Sierra Club.
"Xcel is continuing to sink money into coal-fired power plants, but by localizing control of our energy future, the city will be a lot more nimble and able to respond to a changing energy market and not have to rely on coal-based load from Xcel."
Steve was part of an amazing coalition of groups who worked tirelessly to educate Boulder voters on the issue. He said opponents of the measure dumped more than a million dollars into fighting it - largely by spreading confusion over what a municipal utility would mean for Boulder.
"The community was being bombarded with doubt and fear from opponents, and I credit the community of Boulder and all the groups involved. We were just one of many groups that devoted time and energy to educating people."
For Steve and the coalition, this push for a municipal utility instead of being tied to Xcel is about going after energy that’s not just better for the environment, but also great for the local economy.
"We feel that keeping decisions local will allow us to take those tens of millions of dollars being sent outside our community - Xcel is committed to its shareholders - and using the money to better our own energy infrastructure. For instance, we can tap into our own local renewable energy entrepreneurs who can develop local energy sources and create jobs in our community."
He added that the process forward also includes an "out:" If the city can’t make this plan feasible, they can return to Xcel. But, he added, all the models show that the path voters chose on Tuesday is very possible. Steve and the coalition are excited to work with the city leaders as the plan moves forward.
He also hopes the vote serves as an example to other communities: "I feel like what we’re doing is really breaking new ground here. I’m very proud of my city and I’m very, very proud that we've been able to accomplish this. We've shown the rest of the state and the rest of the country that it is possible with a grassroots campaign to wrest control of your energy options from an investor-owned utility and move toward clean energy."