On the heels of Xcel’s second failure to stop the citizens of Boulder from taking control of their electricity, the utility is attacking energy choice on another front: rooftop solar. Xcel wants to penalize solar customers and eliminate the fair credit they receive for excess clean energy they deliver to the grid. The utility’s disregard for consumer choice is an attempt to protect its monopoly status and inflated profit margins.
Tuesday’s election results show that Xcel faces an uphill battle in trying to stifle rooftop solar and consumer demands for choice and independence on energy matters. On two separate votes related to Boulder’s effort to create its own utility, pro-municipalization positions outpolled pro-Xcel positions 2:1. Meanwhile Lafayette, Boulder, and Fort Collins all passed restrictions on hydraulic fracking.
“These results demonstrate a clear public desire for more choice, local control and more renewable energy,” said Meghan Nutting, Colorado resident and representative of The Alliance for Solar Choice. “Coloradans know last century’s fossil fuel status quo and a centralized monopoly doesn’t work for a 21st Century Colorado.”
In 2011 and 2013, Xcel spent more than $2 million telling the citizens of Boulder that the utility knows better than the community. Consumers did not buy it. Now Xcel is asking the Public Utilities Commission for permission to pay rates below market value to rooftop solar customers who feed electricity back into the grid. Xcel’s proposal would undermine a policy called net metering and prevent consumers from receiving fair credit for the rooftop solar power they produce. Net metering is currently in place in 43 states.
“We all should have the choice to produce our own power from the sun without being penalized,” said Nutting. “But Xcel wants to increase their monopoly over our power sources and eliminate this freedom.”
Xcel’s attempts to end net metering and rooftop solar align with a national playbook outlined by the utility’s own trade association Edison Election Institute (EEI). EEI’s January 2013 report “Disruptive Challenges” warns that increased consumer adoption of distributed solar will lead to “declining utility revenues, increasing costs, and lower profitability potential, particularly over the long-term,” and proposes efforts to eliminate or counter net metering. Utility monopolies across the country have responded with political force. Just this month, EEI disclosed that it spent more than half a million dollars over a ten-day period on anti-rooftop solar advertising in Arizona.