CRES Boulder Chapter urges City of Boulder to vote Yes on 2P and 2O

Sandro Sacerdoti
CRES Boulder County Chapter

Ballots for the upcoming election on November 3 were mailed to Boulder residents on October 13. A number of ballot initiatives are up for a vote including two that are important to renewable energy advocates like BCRES and readers of this blog.

Supporters of renewable energy initiatives should vote Yes on 2P and 2O. This blog post provides a description of the two measures and their benefits. Note that these initiatives are on the ballot for City of Boulder residents, not unincorporated Boulder County.

2P – Renew Boulder’s Climate Action Plan Tax (“CAP Tax”) to fund the City of Boulder’s Climate Action Plan. The CAP Tax was first approved by voters in 2006 as a carbon tax to fund programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under Boulder’s Climate Action Plan.  The CAP Tax levies a tax on electricity usage by residential, commercial and industrial customers and uses the proceeds for a variety of energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The CAP Tax generates approximately $1.8 million each year. Revenue from the CAP Tax has been used to start a number of programs and to obtain Department of Energy and other grants to supplement the initial funds.

In 2012 53% of Boulder’s greenhouse gas emissions were produced by electricity generation, and 31% by the burning of fossil fuels for transportation. In 2014, nearly 53% of Boulder’s electricity, which is supplied by Xcel, was generated by coal power plants, which emit more greenhouse gases than other types of generation such as natural gas power plants, solar, wind, and hydro.

Boulder recently set a goal to reduce greenhouse gases by 80% of 2005 levels by 2050. To achieve this goal, many emissions reduction and energy efficiency programs will need to be implemented and Boulder’s power supply will need to transition away from relying on coal burning power plants. Maintaining the CAP Tax and its support for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and greenhouse gas reduction programs is essential to this effort.

Programs funded by the CAP Tax include Boulder’s EnergySmart program, which now provides energy advising and financial assistance to households and businesses in all Boulder County communities, including the cities of Boulder, Lafayette, Longmont, and Louisville, the towns of Erie, Jamestown, Lyons, Nederland, Superior, Ward, and unincorporated Boulder County. EnergySmart helps residents and businesses identify and implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The program provides a variety of services including rebates, loans, step-by-step energy advising, personalized energy assessments, assistance with finding and working with contractors, technical assistance, and project monitoring and verification.

Other programs supported by the CAP Tax include:

Business programs:

  • LED Exit Sign Exchange / 2007
  • ClimateSmart at Work Audits / 2007-2009
  • Small-Building Tune-Ups / 2010
  • 10 for Change / 2008-2014
  • Commercial EnergySmart (Partners for a Clean Environment) / 2011-present
  • Boulder Building Performance Ordinance (proposed) / present

and

Residential programs:

  • Weatherization / 2007
  • LED holiday light exchange / 2007-2008
  • Efficient Lighting Coupons / 2007-2008
  • Multifamily Performance Program / 2007-2009
  • Neighborhood Sweeps / 2007-2010
  • Solar Thermal and Insulation rebates / 2008
  • CU’s Energy Green Teams and Greek Sustainability Program / 2010-present
  • ReNew Our Schools PTO Fundraiser / 2011
  • Residential Energy Action Program / 2008-2010
  • Residential EnergySmart, including support for SmartRegs compliance / 2011-present
  • Boulder Energy Challenge / 2013-present

2O – Renew Boulder’s Utility Occupation Tax (“UOT”), which replaces the Xcel franchise fee and keeps Boulder’s General Fund whole. In 2010, Boulder City Council voted to let the City’s 20-year franchise agreement with Xcel expire. In the absence of the franchise agreement, Xcel no longer collects a franchise fee from Boulder ratepayers and no longer remits that revenue to the Boulder’s General Fund. Voters passed a Utility Occupation Tax in 2010 to replace Xcel’s franchise fee with approximately $4.3 million per year for the General Fund to maintain funding for core City services such as police, fire, roads, parks, and libraries. The purpose of the proposed 2015 tax extension is to continue to support these core City services through the General Fund without relying on Xcel.

Residents pay the UOT through their electric bill, exactly as they would if Xcel was charging a franchise fee and remitting it to the City. This is not an additional tax. If renewal of the UOT is not approved by the voters, $4.3 million worth of services would need to be reduced or eliminated.