Boulder citizens and Council are making one of the most far reaching and important decisions we will make with major implications for our local economy and our planet. The energy franchise will be worth billions of dollars over 20 years. How much stays in Boulder and what it is spent on is up to us. We need time and competition to get an energy deal that is best for our local economy, our quality of life, our health and our planet. Ideally, a free market would offer us our best choice, but we do not have a free market in energy. If we want competition, we have to create it ourselves.
Xcel is a regulated monopoly. While it may be investor owned, with a 20 year franchise, Xcel will be making our energy choices for a generation. We cannot fire them. With a franchise, your kids may be parents before we can do anything about the choice we make this year. Yes, we’ve chosen a franchise in the past, but never have changes in energy technology, environmental issues and fossil fuels been so dramatic or critical. It would be easiest not to think about our options, just to renew the franchise and tell ourselves we can get out in 10 or 15 years, but the choices then will only be harder, more costly and our position more difficult. Not thinking about our energy choices has gotten us where we are and played a part in some our worst problems, dependence on fossil fuels, toxins in our food and water, the Gulf spill, global warming, wars and terrorism to name but a few.
The time to get competition is now, but we need to be willing to let competition in and hear our options from Xcel’s competitors. The franchise fee replacement tax allows us the time to get competition working for us. Even if our best deal is ultimately a better franchise agreement, competition gets us there, because Xcel will have to win our business over the alternatives.
How do we get competition? Like water through stone, we need time and action. To get time, the franchise fee replacement tax costs us basically nothing by renaming a fee we already pay on our utility bill and gives us five years to allow Xcel and its competitors to compete for our business. Of course, this only works if the franchise renewal is delayed until Xcel improves the deal or a competitor beats that deal. To get action, the citizens of Boulder need to see this for what it is, a chance of a lifetime.