Beginning in the early 2000’s, the residents and City Council of Boulder, Colorado set for themselves a set of goals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve those goals, they would need, among other things, to rely much more heavily on renewable electricity sources. In discussions with their local electricity utility, they found that the utility was not in a position to provide them with the type of power they wanted, and that they as electricity consumers had few options to change that. By 2010, the city had concluded that they wanted to explore options that went beyond the traditional utility relationship and launched several analyses to examine alternative supply options, including the possibility of starting their own municipal utility.
In 2011, residents voted explore explicitly the possibility of acquiring their utility’s local distribution system and forming a local utility to buy and potentially generate electricity from sources that more closely represented the residents’ desire for renewable energy supplies. The process could take as long as five years, and the city council has built in several off-ramps on the road to municipalization by which other options may be pursued.
Whether the city continues with full-scale municipalization or decides on some other option, Boulder has taken the initiative to design an electricity system that can deliver cost-competitive renewable energy, that gives local residents and businesses more control over their energy supplies, and that is more focused on delivering energy as a service rather than a commodity.