Special Municipalization Update

The Boulder Chamber has been actively engaged on behalf of our membership in the City of Boulder’s exploration of taking over the electric utility system from the current provider, Xcel. In particular, we have been working on a number of fronts to both protect the interests of our members and push for solutions that will help achieve Boulder’s green energy goals while recognizing the benefits of maintaining Xcel service. To that end, we offered this input earlier in the year to City Council on their municipalization activities:

We maintain our skeptical neutral positon, as we keep an open mind with respect to the confidence municipalization advocates have articulated for this avenue toward reducing the carbon impact of our energy supply, within the stated reliability and cost parameters. However, given the many unknown costs and risks in pursuing the municipalization course, along with the time, expense and staff resources, we urge the City Council to consider other creative avenues for achieving our clean energy goals. The Boulder Chamber offers it services in helping Xcel and the City of Boulder move beyond the current legal and regulatory battles and return to a dialogue about the opportunities for constructively and effectively resolving this matter in a mutually advantageous manner.

We are pleased that groups like Open Boulder have recently joined us in this same call for the City of Boulder and Xcel to come together around a solution that works best for all parties: http://www.dailycamera.com/guest-opinions/ci_29689217/andy-schultheiss-time-boulder-and-xcel-talk-this. The Boulder Chamber looks forward to partnering with Open Boulder and other organizations in advancing efforts to move toward a solution that addresses the very legitimate interests in greener energy while maintaining a reliable and cost-effective electric utility.

Absent a near term abatement in the wrestling match between Xcel and the City of Boulder, the Boulder Chamber will continue to work to best represent business and community interests as Boulder moves forward along the municipalization path. Most recently, the Boulder Chamber intervened along with IBM and the University of Colorado in the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) case regarding Boulder’s action to assume Xcel’s utility infrastructure and operations. BizWest covered our activities here: http://bizwest.com/puc-grants-6-entities-requests-to-intervene-in-boulder-municipalization-case/.

Our primary focus in this intervention is to protect our business members against potential risks and costs associated with Boulder’s drive to municipalization. However, we also understand that many of our members care deeply about protecting their energy use information from competitors and we want to make sure any actions by the PUC respect the confidentiality of that information. It was in this vein that we noted our data confidentiality concerns in recent filings associated with Boulder’s access to electric use information: “[T]he Boulder Chamber expresses its concern about the impacts of a potential waiver of energy use data privacy rights for our members and other Boulder businesses who are not parties to this proceeding, and the threat it poses of exposing sensitive business information that one might derive from access to such energy use data.”

We were very pleased that the subsequent ruling by the PUC, as agreed by all parties, takes steps to protect the data of Xcel’s Boulder customers:

“[T]he City has requested certain information from Public Service about electrical facilities and how they are used in and around the City. That information does not include any individual customer names, addresses, or billing information, but the information sought does include data about electric usage and loads on certain electric facilities (for example, lines and transformers) that serve customers in and around Boulder and other information that implicates the Commission’s Data Privacy Rules. Under the Data Privacy Rules, the information sought by Boulder about the electric facilities that serve you may not be disclosed by Public Service to the City or other parties to the proceeding without either Commission approval or Public Service receiving your consent.

The City has filed a motion with the Commission seeking a waiver of Rule 3033 for the purpose of receiving the aggregated information from Public Service. If the City’s motion is granted, Public Service will provide the requested data to certain specifically identified engineers working with the City and potentially other specified persons working for other parties to the proceeding before the Commission. Those persons will all be required to keep the information as highly confidential. No persons except those specifically authorized by the Commission will have access to the information.”

A copy of an example notice that the City of Boulder is publishing in local news outlets, in conformance with the above ruling, is attached. Please note that the PUC is providing an opportunity for customers to comment on the data disclosure process before it rules on the City’s waiver motion.

We hope this update on actions the Boulder Chamber is taking with respect to the City’s exploration of the municipalization option has been helpful. Please feel free to contact Andrea Meneghel, the Boulder Chamber’s Public Affairs Director, at andrea.meneghel@boulderchamber.com if you have questions and/or input regarding this matter and the actions we are taking. You can be sure, throughout this process, the Boulder Chamber will continue to play a lead role in representing business interest and the long term future goals of our community.