Coloradans Have Nothing To Lose But Chains

  • Published on May 29th, 2014


By Chip Martin, Special To RGB

As most of you who read me regularly know, I am all about smashing the regulated-monopoly-utility racket that currently holds us hostage. They’ve never faced real competition before, and now rooftop solar poses a significant threat. That’s why they’re hell-bent on regulating it out of the picture. In Colorado, communities are taking notice and taking steps to break free thanks to municipalization — and there’s a fantastic website to help them do it.

First, it’s important to understand what municipalization is. According to the Community Power Network, municipalization is

. . . when a city or county takes control of its electric or gas system from an Investor Owned Utility (IOU) or Rural Electric Cooperative (Coop).

Citizens have banded together to create a group called Coloradans for Electricity Choices (CEC), a grassroots organization that provides important information about when communities are eligible to seize the means of sourcing electricity back from the regulated monopoly utility and return it to where it rightly belongs: with the electric consumers.

The CEC’s message to fellow Coloradans is simple:

As electricity users, Coloradans should have a say in where we want our energy to come from. 

The bad news: Xcel Energy is trying to limit our choices and further entrench its monopoly. 

The good news: The Colorado Constitution offers communities like yours the ability to take control of your electricity sources and break free from Xcel. 

Your city or town has the option to operate its own local electric system. Local electric systems, also known as municipal electric systems, are owned and operated by and for the communities they serve. Locally elected or appointed citizens comprise the board of directors for municipal systems, and they make the decisions regarding the best interests of their cities and towns. 

So far 29 Colorado municipalities have already exercised the right to manage their power in the interests of their communities, instead of bowing down to rapacious regulated utilities. And it’s clear from the CEC’s map that the opportunity exists for many more to follow their trailblazing leaders.

But such changes don’t occur without careful plannng, which is why the CEC’s ingenious interactive map helps citizens prepare for such an eventuality. The map alerts citizens to the dates when their contracts with Xcel expire. Civic leaders can organize strategies and prepare for those dates (and perhaps celebrations to mark their newfound freedom). 

Despite mouthing public platitudes about how much it loves solar, Xcel has spent a surprising amount of energy fighting the fundament solar policy of net metering in Colorado. Xcel has been the poster child for something I’ve written about here before, namely this: Utilities across the country are saying they love solar so much, they want to kill it before it reaches maturity.

But despite utilities spending immeasurable money on lobbying efforts, but it’s not going to work —especially in Colorado.

Simply put, it’s a matter of choice. Municipally-owned utilities work for and are controlled by the citizens. 

Such entities are living, breathing examples of true (small d) democracy at work, providing communities actual local control of their futures instead of depending on the kindness of corporations.

To paraphrase what a famous German philosopher once wrote in 1848, the development of modern energy cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the utilities produce and appropriate energy. What the utilities therefore produce, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of competitive options like rooftop solar are equally inevitable.

The battle lines are being drawn. Whose side will you be on?

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