Xcel Battles Boulder, CO, Over Rights to Customers

Xcel Battles Boulder, CO, Over Rights to Customers

Xcel Energy contends that even if Boulder, Colorado, establishes a city-run utility, the municipality does not have the legal right to provide electric services outside city limits.

Xcel Energy, Inc., is sparring with Boulder, Colorado, over rights to customers as the city considers parting ways with Xcel and establishing its own municipal utility.

But even if the City of Boulder does successfully convert its electric system to municipal ownership, Minneapolis-based Xcel contends that the city has no legal right to take away its customers who reside outside of Boulder’s city limits.

The dispute between Boulder and Xcel dates back to 2011, when Boulder voters reportedly passed a measure authorizing the formation of a municipal utility, contingent upon whether such a utility could offer the same rates and service as Xcel.

As part of its potential takeover plan, Boulder has explored the option of acquiring 5,700 customers who live outside of Boulder’s city limits—and Xcel is calling foul.

The company said in a recent letter to Boulder City Attorney Tom Carr that the municipality does not have the legal right to serve customers outside the city.

“We continue to believe it will be in everyone’s best interest to work together to help Boulder achieve its energy goals while remaining a customer of our company,” David Eves, president and CEO of Xcel subsidiary Public Service Company of Colorado, said in a statement. “But if we can’t find a way to make that happen, we will take all actions necessary to protect our rights to serve them.”

In a statement provided to Colorado media, Carr responded that the city believes Xcel is erroneously interpreting a law regarding Boulder’s authority to serve customers outside of the city.

Some have argued that establishing a city-run utility would allow Boulder to provide energy in a more environmentally friendly manner, and at a cost similar to that charged by Xcel. Xcel, meanwhile, has argued that Boulder is underestimating the costs and challenges of running an electric utility.

A city analysis recently found that Boulder could ultimately offer “greener” energy at similar prices, although the Boulder City Council is seeking a third party to examine those findings, according to a report by the Denver Post. The city council would need to approve the plan to form a municipal utility, and it recently convened a working group to look for ways to cooperate with Xcel Energy as an alternative to forming its own utility, according to the newspaper.

Xcel is among Minnesota’s 10 largest public companies based on revenue, which totaled $10.1 billion in its most recently completed fiscal year.