The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regulates Xcel Energy; they have final say over the rates that the company is allowed to charge, and which investments they make in our energy future. In the past four years, the CPUC has approved 3 rate increases. The commission also allowed Xcel to build the state’s largest coal-fired power plant — Comanche 3 — at a cost of nearly one billion dollars, waiving their own rule that such large projects be bid out competitively. By doing so, they handed Xcel a windfall profit. Now Xcel wants to double down its long-term bets on coal by spending nearly $400 million to refurbish the aging Pawnee and Hayden power plants, tying Colorado to this polluting and climate damaging fuel for decades to come, and making all of us pay for the privilege of burning it.
The CPUC is allowing Xcel Energy to make choices that are bad for our rates, good for their profits, and which degrade our environment both locally and globally. Furthermore, the commission has — at Xcel’s request — begun barring citizen participation in their proceedings. Decisions about our rates, fuel mix, and the huge capital expenditures made on our behalf thus stand to be approved without any direct public participation. If we stick with Xcel, we will be stuck with this impenetrable regulatory system indefinitely. In contrast, the governance of a local Boulder utility would be far more accountable, accessible, and transparent. It would not involve constantly battling a well funded corporate adversary. It would be able to reflect Boulder’s core values of sustainability and innovation — values unfortunately not universally shared by our fellow Coloradans. We would also be able to effectively leverage our vibrant community of clean energy entrepreneurs.
We have vastly more access to our City Council and the commissioners they appoint than we will ever be able to get at state level. Whatever decisions are made locally, we can be confident that our community will have a voice in the process and truly influence the outcome. Vote Yes on 2B and 2C and give us the power to control our own energy future!
(this post is a slightly longer version of the Letter to the Editor that I wrote with Amy Guinan)