The Colorado Public Utilities Commission is expected to rule Wednesday on a request from Xcel Energy to stop Boulder from taking roughly 6,000 county customers for a future city electric utility.
Boulder contends it has a clear right under Colorado's constitution to acquire Xcel's distribution in nearby county areas and serve those customers, and it needs two substations that serve both city and county areas to provide the most reliable electric service possible.
Xcel Energy says the PUC issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Xcel to serve the county customers in question -- mostly in the Gunbarrel area and in unincorporated enclaves in north Boulder -- and Boulder cannot take away that right to serve without due process.
The members of the PUC are not expected to hear oral arguments in the case, but they are expected to deliberate Wednesday during their regular meeting and issue a decision.
Hundreds of county residents have filed letters with the PUC saying they do not want to be customers of the city of Boulder. The Office of Consumer Counsel has weighed in on their behalf and against Boulder's position.
The Colorado Rural Electric Association and several rural electric cooperatives have filed a brief saying that Boulder's right to condemn utility assets outside its borders does not translate into a right to serve those customers.
Boulder spokeswoman Sarah Huntley said city officials are waiting to see how the PUC rules, but the City Council has already expressed a willingness to look for ways for county customers to have a choice in their electric provider.
Current Colorado law does not allow for customer choice in an electric provider, but one provision of a City Council-backed charter amendment on utility debt would require that the city support ways to create customer choice.
A competing charter amendment backed by Xcel Energy would require that affected county customers get to vote on the city utility's total debt limit, which could also require change to state law.
Huntley said the city's position is that owning the infrastructure in the affected county areas is not optional, and it has not done extensive modeling on how stopping service at the city limits would affect costs.
"Our primary concern about the out-of-city customers is wanting to maintain the integrity of the system," she said. "We are saying this is the system we need to meet the needs of our community."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.