Creating a municipal energy utility is such a big concern to Boulder businesses that the Chamber of Commerce has put its public affairs manager on the issue full-time.

Angelique Espinoza, a former City Council member herself, is now working almost entirely on the topic of municipalization, and Elizabeth Patterson is working on other city issues as a public affairs associate.

Espinoza said the Boulder Chamber does not oppose the city creating a municipal energy utility. Rather, it sees its role as "a skeptical, honest broker."

Members' concerns are "rates and reliability," Espinoza said, and the organization is hopeful that a citizen advisory group with city and Xcel Energy representation can develop alternatives that deliver more renewable energy to Boulder without the city forming its own system.

Espinoza said new Executive Director John Tayer came on board with the goal of increasing the Boulder Chamber's advocacy work, and the organization reached out to local businesses to raise money to fund the additional public affairs position.

"We are supported by member contributions, and we have been reaching out to members saying we want to increase our advocacy overall," Espinoza said.

A recent city analysis of the feasibility of municipalization found that some options allowed for rates similar to or lower than Xcel Energy's over a 20-year period, as well as for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and getting more energy from renewable resources.

The city is in the midst of a public outreach process. The City Council will vote in April whether to move forward with the next steps, which include review of the analysis by a third party, additional due diligence and acquiring Xcel's distribution system.

Several City Council members said Boulder should put the question to another vote before taking the final step toward municipalization. Espinoza said the Boulder Chamber supports that idea.

"We think people voted for 2B and 2C because they wanted to explore options and not necessarily because they wanted to go down the municipalization path," Espinoza said, referring to the ballot measures that authorized the City Council to create a municipal utility and raised the occupation utility tax to pay for it.

Espinoza said the most concern comes from large industrial energy users.

A spokeswoman for Ball Aerospace said the company is closely following the issue.

"As one of the larger energy users in Boulder, we are concerned how municipalization could impact our costs," Roz Brown said in a prepared statement. "Additionally, we have unique reliability needs. Based on what we've read in the staff report so far, we agree that the municipalization seems possible, but we're still waiting to be convinced that the gains outweigh the risks."

A spokesman for IBM said the company is also closely following the issue but does not have a position.

"We have a general concern about reliable electricity, but right now we're just taking a wait-and-see approach," said Mike Stratton. "Isn't that what everybody's doing?

Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or meltzere@dailycamera.com.