The city council in Boulder, Colorado, U.S., has approved an ordinance that authorizes the purchase Xcel Energy’s assets as it moves toward creating a municipal electric utility. The plan, approved August 20, requires the utility to offer more renewable energy than Xcel at similar or lower rates.

Boulder has been studying options for a more locally controlled, greener energy future for two years. Residents of the Colorado community approved two ballot measures in November 2011 that authorized the city to continue to explore the possibility of purchasing Xcel Energy’s distribution system and forming a city-owned utility.

The effort to create a municipal utility in Boulder is driven in large part by a desire for cleaner, more renewable sources of energy. Boulder’s energy supply is one of the most carbon-intensive in the nation, but the city is working to change that. In a 2011 survey, 71% of respondents said they support municipalization and said they thought the city would be better than Xcel Energy at offering renewable sources of energy and reducing carbon emissions.

The August 20 vote allows city officials to begin negotiations with Xcel to purchase the poles and wires that distribute electricity around Boulder, six substations and a high-voltage transmission line that circles the city.

If Xcel does not want to sell the system to Boulder, the city could proceed to condemnation. At the same time, city and Xcel officials are looking at possible alternatives to municipalization that would provide cleaner energy to Boulder. Those proposals consist of new products and services that Xcel would offer across the state.

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