Boulder looking to acquire Xcel Energy streetlights for LED conversion


Boulder is looking to buy 4,540 streetlights currently owned and operated by Xcel Energy in order to convert the full system to LED.

In its Thursday study session, the City Council will discuss the proposal, which is expected to save Boulder money and reduce the city’s energy consumption.

“For many years, the city has been interested in converting the Xcel Energy streetlight system to LED luminaires for energy savings and greenhouse gas reduction, cost savings, reduced maintenance, better visual acuity and (the) ability to remotely monitor and control,” a staff memo for Thursday’s meeting notes.

Boulder had been constrained in doing so because of the existing regulatory structure. But that changed when voters in November 2020 approved a francise agreement with Xcel Energy, ending its long-time effort to become its own municipally owned utility.

And it ultimately led Boulder and Xcel Energy to formally explore other options including:

• LED conversion through Xcel Energy’s existing program with and without upfront investment from Boulder;

• Developing an alternative program offering and rate design in coordination with Xcel Energy and other communities;

• Acquiring the streetlight system and retrofitting it to LED.

The projected cost of the project is $7 million and would reduce Boulder’s energy use by 70% and its energy expenses by 85%. The city estimates the 20-year project savings to be $13.6 million with Boulder experiencing a return on its $7 million investment in nine years.

In addition to cost savings and energy efficiency, Boulder argued in Thursday’s staff memo that a full acquisition will be more reliable as well.

Xcel Energy crews periodically identify areas of outage, but the primary method for identifying outages is for people to report them. Given many do not know how to report an outage or that they need to do so, this can leave outages identified and segments of the community disproportionately impacted, the staff memo notes.

Further, Xcel strives to repair 85% of outages in five days but often falls short of that target.

For example, in Xcel Energy’s May 2022 report, 44 outputs were recorded. Of those, 30 were repaired with five days, while eight repairs were completed within six to 25 days and six remained unrepaired for 20 to 45 days.

The City Council will learn more about the proposal on Thursday and officially approve it later this year during the 2023 budgeting process.

Boulder expects to use money from its capital infrastructure tax as the initial funding source. The city indicated its to do so when sharing information about the tax extension, which intention approved in last year’s municipal election.


If you watch

What: Boulder City Council study session

When: 6 pm Thursday

Where: Council and city staff members will participate from remote locations. Residents can watch the meeting on Boulder’s YouTube channel or on Channel 8.

Agenda: bit.ly/34geMhj

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