Local Government and Grid

Boulder’s Energy Goals

Defines current status and target status/year for various Boulder Energy Goals
This graphic shows Colorado’s goals for reduction in emissions across all sectors by year

Local Grid Description

In this section, we will take a look at some different information and graphics that break down factors such as Boulders total energy usage, the main sources, the energy resource mix that provides power, and more.

*If it is not otherwise stated, all numbers are in the units of metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

This graphic shows the sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Boulder by type
This graphic shows the sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Boulder by sector
This graphic shows us what source our electricity comes from in Boulder in 2005 vs. 2018

Climate Mobilization Action Plan

The Climate Mobilization Action Plan (CMAP) is the City of Boulder’s comprehensive, community-centered plan to take action on the global and the local climate crisis.

As this graphic highlights, CMAP shares ZEN’s value of creating a cleaner future through the efforts of an entire community. This graphic highlights some of the plan’s most important goals such as creating a 15 minute neighborhood, implementing large-scale carbon sequestration, regenerating our land, and more. The graphic also mentions some more ambitious long term goals, most notably for 100% of our energy to come from renewable sources. It is also important not to overlook CMAP’s final step, sharing what we learn. Boulder, Colorado is a progressive community with many of the resources necessary to become a role model for other cities to reduce their emissions. While we may be succeeding in fixing our own local climate crisis, the global crisis rages on and we should do all that we can to share what we have learned with other communities that are facing our same challenges. For more information about CMAP and what your local Boulder government is doing to fight the climate crisis, visit their web page here.


If you have been listening to the recent news around Boulder you may have heard the term municipalization thrown around, if not, you came to the right place. Municipalization is the local government acquisition of corporate assets, specifically, Xcel energy. Many citizens in the City of Boulder wish to undergo utility provisioning for its citizens instead of Xcel. Earlier this year, the City of Boulder was attempting to acquire the operation of the energy grid from Xcel energy.  Recently that changed, the City of Boulder and Xcel Energy have come up with a potential settlement.  This is a franchise agreement that will go to voters this November to decide the future of Boulder’s electricity grid.  If this franchise agreement gets approved, then the city’s municipalization efforts will be pushed aside and businesses and residents will stay Xcel Energy customers.   The agreement is supposed to last for 20 years, with terms to end early if Xcel Energy does not hit set carbon reduction targets.  For more information on the terms of the agreement check out the City of Boulder Website.

To give some background, the city of Boulder has been in a partnership with Xcel Energy but there has not been an official agreement since 2010.   Boulders ambitious goal is to reach an 80% reduction in all emissions by 2030. If the energy grid stays in the hands of Xcel, the city predicts they could only achieve a 50% reduction of overall emissions. As of 2019, the state of Colorado has mandated Xcel to lower their emissions by 80% meaning Boulder would not achieve the 100% reduction that they hoped for, but would still receive a large reduction from Xcel. The discussion is not as black and white as this sounds. Some of the important considerations against municipalization include the extreme upfront costs to the city and the stranded costs of Xcel’s equipment that would no longer be used. Additionally, Boulder is still working on constructing a complete financial analysis for all of the costs, for updates on this, check out the City of Boulder’s web page (linked above).

There is also a third available option that must be considered. Instead of the municipalization of the energy grid by the city of Boulder, or just leaving it in the hands of Xcel, the third option is to pay for energy certificates. In this scenario, Xcel would still control the energy grid, but the City of Boulder would buy either wind or solar energy certificates to essentially offset the non-renewable energy that Xcel is using. The annual costs would be around $150,000-$700,000 for the City, much less than the cost of municipalization. Additionally, as the energy grid improves, this cost would decrease. The biggest argument against this considers the question, are we simply trying to displace our non-renewable energy, or are we actually trying to improve our emissions in Boulder? If we paid for energy certificates, it might disincentives both Xcel and the City to put resources towards improving our own grid, since we are just paying for the renewable energy from somewhere else.

Boulder Municipalization Pros and Cons

Attached is a brochure that is a catered towards understanding the complicated issues surrounding Boulder’s municipalization process, we have tried not to take a side, instead we have just given the facts.

Municipalization Voter Guide

Energy Literacy

For those of you who want to learn more about Boulders energy grid, what “the grid” is, and more about energy, here is a helpful list of information:

  1. Xcel Energy is one of many shareholders owned electrical utility companies. Alternatives to the standard shareholder option include cooperatives and municipalities.
  1. “The grid” is made up of energy production facilities (coal burning plant, wind turbines, etc.), substations which provide regulation, and transmission lines that distribute power.
  1. Energy is measured in Watts. Watts can be thought of as energy over time. 1000 Watts per hour is known as a kilowatt-hours (kWh). 1 kWh is roughly equal to the amount of energy required to run an oven for 1 hour. In 2018, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,972 (kWh). The amount of energy that 1 solar panel can produce in a year is dependent on many variables. Local Boulder solar gardens get about 750 kWh a year per panel.
  1. Fossil fuels are energy sources. They are nonrenewable on relevant time scales and emit greenhouse gasses. Coal is the dirtiest energy source and natural gas is the “cleanest”.
  1. Renewable clean energy sources are renewable in production and do not emit greenhouse gasses. Wind works better for large scale operations. Solar works well in many forms.
  1. Problems with 100% renewable grids are managing demand. Terms: Ercot/ Duck curve, Ramp
  1. In a clean grid, demand can be managed through better storage and better-connected grids.
  1. If you put solar panels on your house, you will be limited in the amount of energy that you can produce. You can only produce 130% of the energy you need. The extra energy you do produced can be net metered. This process monitors your generation of extra energy so that the utility provider can pay you back corresponding to the amount of energy you put into the grid.
  1. If you cannot purchase solar for your home, you can buy Renewable Energy Certificates. Buying into these programs will mean your energy is coming from a renewable production site instead of a non-renewable production site.
  1. When you buy a REC, you will receive a bill credit on your energy bill. A bill credit is dollar savings that correspond to the amount of energy your REC produces.
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