This post was written by Steven Roberts, one of RE-volv's '14-'15 Solar Ambassadors. Read more about Steven and the rest of our Solar Ambassadors here.
Here in the city of Boulder, we are looking to be the pioneers of an exciting transition to municipalize our utilities. The transition is being called the “electric utility of the future” and for those unfamiliar with this idea, (which is likely as it is one of the first of its kind), municipalizing our utilities means the city of Boulder will control and supply its own electricity generation. Yes, that’s right: in 2013 the city of Boulder voted to be one of the first cities to provide energy locally and to move entirely away from relying on monopoly utility companies. The pioneering transition embodies the community’s goal of lowering our greenhouse gas emissions. The outcome will not only supply citizens with greener energy but it will also give the citizens of Boulder a greater say on where their energy comes from.
The main motive behind the transition is to become less reliant on fossil fuels and more reliant on renewable energies—currently, Boulder receives 90% of its energy from fossil fuels. The current utilities provider has not been moving fast enough to meet the demand for change. It will not be an easy transition but in a city that receives 320 days of sunshine each year, has constant winds blowing across its valleys and is even looking to implement hydropower, the opportunity to become a city relying mostly on renewable energy is ripe. If Boulder municipalizes utilities, the expected energy supply coming from solar energy will increase from 2% to 50%!
Boulder is already hitting resistance as Excel tries to sue Boulder for a breach of contract while also complicating the purchasing of the city’s current energy grid, built by Excel. The early actions of Excel reveal that the city’s pioneering transition will not be easy, but, if successful, will be a game changer.
The benefits of municipalizing energy here in Boulder will be quickly realized. First, it will democratize energy decision-making and will provide the citizens of Boulder direct control over and involvement with their energy future. Imagine being a citizen with the ability to choose your energy mix, and what portion of your energy comes from solar, wind, or coal!
Secondly, municipalizing our energy will decentralize energy generation and management—citizens will be able to manage and reduce their energy use as effectively and efficiently as possible. Furthermore, energy providers will be able to compete and innovate without having to compete against a goliath.
Lastly, expected benefits include cleaner energy at a lower utility cost, resulting in decarbonized energy in Boulder while simultaneously reducing energy’s internal and external costs. Combating climate change at a cheaper cost—where can I sign up?
Ultimately, if successful, municipalizing utilities in the city of Boulder will bring an inspiring transformation to the way we look at the lights in our house and the energy we use. Soon enough the citizens of Boulder will stand on top of the Flatiron Mountains and see open fields of solar panels and wind turbines and the lights in our heads will flicker on and we will realize, this is how we empowered our community.