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Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.

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Boulder Moves Toward Clean, Independent Energy

11/11/2011 4:28:48 PM

Tags: energy, renewable energy, politics, climate change, environment, Triple Pundit, Keith Goetzman

Coal-fired power plant, Boulder 

Boulder, Colorado, took a landmark step toward energy independence when its voters chose to allow the city to consider dumping Xcel Energy as its power provider and creating its own municipal power utility. Triple Pundit calls the news “the start of a transition in American power” because the driving force behind the measure was concern about climate change. Supporters of the measure want their power provider to include more renewable energy sources and fewer fossil fuels than Xcel was willing to consider.

Reports Triple Pundit:

Going beyond standard renewable portfolio standards of 20 or 30 percent is increasingly difficult for big centralized power providers who need to recoup costs for their investments in power plants and return profits to investors. As a result, as more renewable options enter the market, it makes sense for communities to seek smaller, more decentralized power options.

As Ann Butterfield explained in her article for the Huffington Post, this ballot measure reflects the community’s desire for renewable energy and the sentiment that big companies—or utilities—can no longer externalize risks they are taking to maximize profits.

Xcel-funded opponents spent money mightily in a campaign to defeat the measure, sensing a bad precedent for Big Power, but Boulder residents went for it by a slim majority. John Farrell of Energy Self-Reliant States wrote in a post republished by Grist:

The victory margin was small, but the clean energy and economic opportunity is enormous. According to a citizen-led and peer-reviewed study, the city could increase renewable energy production by 40 percent from multiple local sources without increasing rates.

If the city uses its new authority to become a utility, future generations may look back at Nov. 1, 2011, as the shot heard round the world—a shot fired for clean, local energy—and ask why more Americans didn’t “go Boulder” sooner.

(In related indie-media news, Triple Pundit has announced it has teamed up with another of Utne Reader’s favorite green-biz news sources, Sustainable Industries. We’re looking forward to seeing their talents and energies combined in a multimedia green mashup.)

Sources: Triple Pundit, Energy Self-Reliant States, Huffington Post, Grist 

Image by andersbknudsen, licensed under Creative Commons.  



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