Boulder's bold energy statement
Recent election results from Boulder, Colorado highlight another rejection of traditional energy supplier policies. According to Boulder Mayor Applebaum, "This is a message that we have to change a broken system - we need some local control." While the ballot questions were locally directed, the results highlight the national debate on energy supply. Boulder's referendum focused on their local energy distributor's control of the energy mix and whether or not to purchase that company's equipment to run their own utility.
The discussion began when Xcel, the local energy company was not willing to cooperate in the development of more local renewable energy and energy efficiency, so Boulder retained Paul Fenn, of Local Power Inc. to advise them on alternatives. For Fenn the obvious solution was to not renew the utilities contract and form a municipal utility with a new business model focused on localization and demand reduction.
Fenn's strategy is to give communities more control of their energy sources and still maintain power distribution and delivery from the existing grid. Fenn suggested a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) whereby the municipality combines to purchase power on behalf of individual customers within its authority. The supplying utility companies are then prohibited from marking up the original energy supply driving energy rates down between 15-30%. CCAs are currently active in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, and California.
"The first CCAs were all about lowering rates for mom and pop stores and families," said Fenn. "They saved 'little people' billions of dollars. We did something very different in California, where the move to aggregation is connected to reducing greenhouse gases and developing renewables." For instance, Marin Clean Energy (MCE)from Marin County California offers communities the choice of whether or not they want to participate in the abatement of greenhouse emissions with their choice of energy. MCE focus is to reduce dependence on fossil fuels by encouraging development of renewable energy sourcing and greener energy procurement. MCE offers customers a choice of how green they want their usage to be. The choices include, "Light Green" (50% renewable) or, for a slightly higher price, "Deep Green" (100% renewable) energy.
Presently Colorado does not have the necessary legislation for CCAs but Boulder's bold vote demonstrates that the political climate is ready for transition.
Read more on this subject from Roy Hales at Sand Diego Loves Green.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) main campus facility, Golden Colorado by Dennis Schroeder, U.S. DOE, NREL.