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Published on December 16th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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Colorado Solar Net Metering Under Threat, 30,000 Coloradans Fight Back

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December 16th, 2013 by Zachary Shahan 

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about a strong push from Colorado residents, businesses, and organizations to get 3,000 megawatts (MW) of solar on one million rooftops by 2030.

Despite this, Colorado utility Xcel Energy is pushing to roll back policies that support the development of solar power in the state. In response, 300 citizens last week rallied in Denver in order to deliver 30,000 citizen petitions urging for Xcel Energy to drop its anti-solar stance.

solar-panels-and-battery-hut_lThis solar rooftop is actually off the hook in this story, as it’s too far off the grid to benefit from net metering anyway. Photo Credit: Earthworm / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

“Xcel Energy’s contested proposal seeks to undermine net metering, a program that encourages consumer investment in solar power. Net metering gives solar customers full retail credit on their energy bills for the excess power they contribute to the grid for the utility to resell nearby. Xcel issued the proposal as part of its 2014 Renewable Energy Standard compliance plan,” a news release from The Alliance for Solar Choice stated.

The cost of solar has come down tremendously in recent years, but that doesn’t mean net metering should be dropped. Net metering is a fair policy that says, “hey, if you generate more solar electricity than you need and export it to the grid, we’ll credit your electricity bill in a fair way, providing you the retail rate of electricity from that.” The benefit is the same as if you had cut your electricity usage.

colorado solar panelsRooftop solar panels in Colorado. Photo Credit: Zane Selvans / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

There are various reasons why this electricity is especially valuable and worth retail credit — electricity generated in the middle of the day is greatly needed and thus much more “valuable;” electricity generated from distributed, rooftop solar power systems reduces the need for more transmission lines and infrastructure; electricity generated from decentralized solar power systems increased grid security; electricity generated from solar power plants keeps our air and water cleaner, and our climate livable — thus keeping us all healthier and safer; etc.

A recent study found that Colorado solar consumers are providing approximately $11 million in annual benefits to the Xcel grid. $11 million! And Xcel wants to cut the most critical support policy?

Furthermore, the Colorado solar industry has brought the state about 10,000 full-time jobs and $1.42 billion of economic activity so far.

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“Coloradans are not going to let Xcel get away with a dramatic rollback of the state’s most important solar policy. If approved, Xcel would be able to drastically cut the credit solar customers receive for electricity they put on the grid. This proposal is anti-progress, anti-consumer, and simply unfair. Colorado’s solar customers deserve full credit for the valuable power they produce, which is building a safer, cleaner, more resilient grid for all of us,” said Annie Lappe, solar policy director at The Vote Solar Initiative (Vote Solar).

solar-panels-at-arapaho-national-wildlife-refuge_lMore rooftop solar panels in Colorado, at risk of losing the logical net metering policy that was in place when they were installed. Photo Credit: USFWS Mountain Prairie / Foter.com / CC BY

“Xcel’s anti-solar proposal is out of step with its own customers. Recent polling shows that four in five Coloradans support our current solar crediting arrangement and oppose Xcel’s efforts to weaken it. It’s time for Xcel, the Governor, and the PUC to represent the best interests of Coloradans by standing up for our solar rights,” said Meghan Nutting, a spokeswoman for The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), and Colorado-based director of policy and electricity markets for SolarCity Corp.

Solar power has just gotten to the point where it can save millions of US residents tens of thousands of dollars (each) over a couple of decades. It deserves its time in the spotlight, but it shouldn’t be in the spotlight for illogical attacks from utility monopolies. It should be in the spotlight for its tremendous benefits — to consumers, the grid, local businesses, and the world as a whole.

“At a time when solar is more affordable than ever, Xcel should work to expand private investment in solar generation and the many environmental and public health benefits it delivers to Coloradans. Instead, the utility’s proposal would actively discourage its customers from investing in solar to prop up Xcel’s outdated business model. It makes no sense,” said Bryce Carter, organizer with the Sierra Club Colorado Beyond Coal Campaign.

rocky-mountain-innoshpere_solar_panelsSolar panels that provide electricity and much-needed shade at Rocky Mountain innosphere. Photo Credit: Inhabitat / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

rocky-mountain-innoshpere-1_sunshineSolar panels that provide electricity and much-needed shade at Rocky Mountain innosphere. Photo Credit: Inhabitat / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

“Coloradans feel strongly that we need to increase energy self-reliance, clean our air and fight climate disruption by developing our homegrown renewable energy resources. We should make it more affordable for Coloradans to harness sunshine to generate their own clean energy, not put solar out of their reach by rolling back our successful net metering program,” said Margaret McCall, energy associate at Environment Colorado.

Colorado is currently 7th in the nation for total solar power capacity, with enough solar power capacity to power up to around 56,500 Colorado homes (314 MW), but apparently Xcel Energy doesn’t want the state to get to #1… or even get into the top 5.

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • Kiwiiano

    Looks like they’re going to have to re-think that “much-needed shade” aspect! ;^)

  • http://noapologyliberal.blogspot.com/ Matthew Rose

    More Conservative opposition to free-market principles when it will benefit individuals.

    • Fyou CCtimes

      They can call themselves conservatives all they want but a true conservative wouldn’t behave like this. I’d call these people self serving crooks more than anything.

  • Senlac

    There is another benefit Utilities receive, inexpensive peek electricity. The retail rate I pay (.157 per KhW in MA) and I’m sure Colorado residents pay is an “average”. Peek demand often drives up the price to 2 to 4 times over off peek prices in the whole sale market, where Utilities purchase energy.

    In short, if they reimburse home owners at the retail for solar produced during peek hours, the Utilities are getting a good deal. Given the other benefits, investments made to integrate solar arrays to the grid are well worth it. It is more about their not wanting to share the business with home owners, but that ship as sailed long ago. The new grid is becoming more decentralized, which is a good thing.

  • gggreggg

    i see the fingerprints of the disgusting ALEC. ORGANIZATION all over this reprehensible attempt to roll back solar energy!!!
    this sort of program is one of their projects.
    check out ALEC and fight them tooth and nail–
    good luck!!

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