Power to the People: One City Looks to Show Utility Companies What Real Power Looks Like
What you are about to hear is a story that is happening in every town and community across America. This is really a tale modeled after David vs. Goliath, yet its ramifications could change how we view democracy for good. This is a true story about corporate greed and what one community is doing to fight for our health and our planet!
It all started with a town in Colorado that devised a novel model for providing energy that, if it succeeded, could one day be used in countless cities across the country to help grant further independence from third party utilities companies and decrease negative effects on the environment. This model addresses the root cause of climate change and what some shady corporations are doing to cover it up. In 2011 the city of Boulder, Colo. voted to localize its power supply, taking control back from private corporations. Boulder, the first city to do this, originally aimed solely to reduce its impact on the planet said Tim Hillman, an environmental engineer local in Boulder. The town voted to become a municipality running on locally-owned utility companies, where the community could make its own energy decisions instead of relying on private companies. Why was decreasing its impact on climate change so important to the people of Boulder? Well, did you know that climate data shows that 2012 was the warmest year on record for the U.S. in the past 118 years? The resulting forest fires from the heat wave caused an estimated $1 billion in damages alone.
Originally, the Boulder community tried working with its existing monopoly utility provider, Xcel Energy, to meet their aggressive emission reduction goals. It was then that the community learned how broken the energy system is across the Nation because of a few select corporations that stand in the way of change and progress under the guise of profit margins (but really greed).
This led Boulder to devise a plan for how the city could move away from prehistoric fossil fuels to renewable and clean energy systems. In response, Xcel spent a million dollars on a fear campaign. Regardless, the community, with the help of the nonprofit organization New Era Colorado, was able to win in the end. Despite being outspent on marketing 10-1, the grassroots coalition was able to hit the streets, knock on doors, pass out flyers, and do everything they could to make sure the voting public was informed. Boulder calculated that by providing its own utilities, the city could meet its energy goals by 2037, reducing coal production to 0% and creating a cheaper and more efficient system.
Recently, in its third and final vote, Boulder’s City Council voted 6-3 to approve an ordinance declaring that the case for the municipal utility meets the requirements of the city charter, as well as an ordinance that authorizes the purchase of Xcel Energy’s assets.
So David has beat Goliath, for now. But companies like Xcel have not given up their fight. In fact, they are flooding the Boulder area right now with even more money. Xcel is looking to buy corporate influence by funding a ballot measure that aims to undo everything Boulder has achieved, including tampering with petitions and spreading lies to citizens in a textbook scare campaign, according to New Era Colorado. Sadly, this is a common occurrence as we continue to allow corporations to influence government policy, election after election. Supporters of the project claim that the new measure is designed to “kill” the city-owned utility by making it extremely difficult for them to pursue the condemnation of Xcel Energy’s property and assets. And while the city and Xcel continue to negotiate, Xcel has said it does not intend to willingly sell its assets to, or partner with, Boulder, outside of offering renewable energy products of its own. Plus, with the state of the court system in the United States, any condemnation proceedings could last well past 2015, further delaying the project.
Not only is Xcel looking to defend the $35 million per year it generates in Boulder, but it is also looking to block Boulder from setting a precedent of national significance. It aims to squash opposition not just to Excel energy, but to every dirty coal company in the United States and the world!
In spite of Xcel’s efforts, the people of Boulder are hopeful that their work will spur a national movement toward clean energy. New Era Colorado said,
If Boulder is successful we’ll show the country that with local control a community can put their values into action. When a community doesn’t rely on an outdated corporate structure for its energy, it can not only power its community using renewable energy, but it also do this in a better and cheaper way. And if Boulder can do it, maybe other communities will start wondering what the millions of dollars they pay to their own power providers could do in their city.
In fact, communities are already starting to do just that. If we win, we trigger a national model that can be replicated across the country. But the only way David beats Goliath this time is with your help. Because the only way to beat money is with people… And together we’ll show the big utilities what real local power looks like.
Do you think we should bring the power back to the people? If so, lend support to the Campaign for Local Power being crowdfunded on Indiegogo.