The drive to form a municipal utility grew out of the city's efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. In 2006, Boulder voters approved a carbon tax to fund programs that would help Boulder meet the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for a 7 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels.
But despite the city's efforts creating and implementing a Climate Action Plan, Boulder is not expected to meet its Kyoto goal. One of the challenges residents have faced is that their current private electricity provider, Xcel Energy, runs 60% on coal. A group of local leaders and environmental activists decided to help cut carbon by calling for a new municipal utility, which could source more of its electricity from renewable energy.
Xcel Energy put close to $1 million into fighting the measure and an associated measure to raise revenue for the utility's launch through additional taxes, while the activists only spent about $87,500. It could still take five years before the city’s utility is operational, and the measure passed with a narrow margin, showing that there is still work to be done to unite the community around the issue.