Xcel Energy, a utility in Colorado, has proposed increasing fixed charges for all customers while reducing charges on energy used. Xcel also plans to introduce demand charges for residential customers, which up until now have only applied to large commercial and industrial customers. Like similar proposals brought about by other utilities in other states, solar industry advocates aren’t thrilled with the concept, as it can read as disincentivizing investment in distributed generation systems by small businesses and residences.
And just like in other states, the usual suspects are rallying to support pro-solar initiatives and fight back against the proposals by Xcel Energy.
“Right now, Colorado is a top 10 state for solar jobs, and people are moving here specifically to work in the solar industry,” saidLauren Randall, Senior Manager of Public Policy for Sunrun. “Xcel’s confusing proposal would stifle that momentum.”
More than one hundred Colorado solar energy workers, customers, and supporters gathered on the steps last week before the first Public Utilities Commission (PUC) hearing on Xcel’s proposal to restructure electricity rates.
In recent years, Colorado has positioned itself as a clean energy leader and innovation powerhouse. Last August, after nearly two years of discussions, Governor Hickenlooper’s appointed PUC decided to maintain the state’s solar net metering policy.
Solar supporters worry that Xcel is now looking for “a second bite at the apple” to eliminate rooftop solar competition. When a major utility in Nevada increased charges on solar customers, half a dozen local and national solar companies left the state. In fact, many employees came to Colorado to work in solar after operations were shuttered in Nevada. Coloradans want to prevent a similar outcome here.
“We believe public policies should encourage more distributed solar energy in order to provide customer choice, reduced air pollution and a more resilient electric grid,” said Rebecca Cantwell, executive director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association. “We hope the PUC will decide Xcel’s proposals are moving us away from those goals and instead support innovative rate policies.”
— Solar Builder magazine