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Xcel, Boulder can’t agree on deal for green energy

Xcel Energy Inc. and the city of Boulder, Colo., blamed one another Thursday for a breakdown in negotiations that appears to scuttle a proposal for the utility to provide a large volume of renewable energy in exchange for a renewed franchise agreement.

The city issued a news release blaming Xcel for the impasse. The city says Xcel wanted two ballot proposals that would lead to a 20-year franchise agreement. One would tie the renewal of its franchise to a proposed wind-power development. The other would have granted the franchise agreement regardless.

“After careful deliberations, council [members] decided last summer that 20 years was simply too long to commit to a coal-dependent, investor-owned utility and rejected this option,” the city said.

Xcel blamed city officials for the schism. The company issued a statement saying the voters should decide the teams of the agreement. Essentially, those options would be:

•Pay an extra $4 a month to meet the city’s goal of acquiring 90 percent of its power from renewable sources within nine years.

•Allow Xcel to continue providing power that meets Colorado’s 30 percent goal.

•Have the city take over electrical generation.

“Throughout our discussions with the city, our position has been that our customers in Boulder should have meaningful choice,” Xcel said in a statement. “We want to allow voters to determine what they prefer, rather than have their energy future decided by limiting their options.”

Xcel said it remains committed to its customers in Boulder, a city of roughly 100,000 residents about 30 miles north of Denver. Xcel maintains that Boulder can reduce its carbon emissions better with its help than it could on its own, “and without the significant cost and inherent risk of municipalization.”

In May, Xcel proposed having the city pay a higher share of the initial costs associated with the construction of a new wind farm in eastern Colorado. City staff and council members balked at the financial risks of the proposal.

“The City of Boulder understands why Xcel Energy wants a 20-year franchise agreement, and it is possible that council and voters might have approved that, if such an agreement came with a well-negotiated wind purchase plan,” City Manager Jane Brautigam said in a statement. “But we know that a franchise by itself would tie the city to a long-term energy future that remains largely dependent on investments in coal and a business model that prevents local communities from making decisions about their own energy futures. This runs contrary to the goals Boulder wants to achieve.”

Boulder will now consider whether to create its own power utility.