17,000 Coloradans urge regulators to reject Xcel proposal that would discourage customer investment in solar

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A new study commissioned by Vote Solar and undertaken by Crossborder Energy indicates that the financial benefits of net metered power outweigh the costs associated with net metering in Colorado, with a total net value of $7-11 million per year. The findings were submitted to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in opposition to a study from Xcel Energy that could be used to weaken net metering.

The Vote Solar Initiative released new study findings showing that distributed solar energy systems in the Xcel service area deliver $11 million in annual benefits to Colorado ratepayers. The findings were submitted to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in opposition to a study from Xcel Energy that could be used to weaken net metering, one of Colorado’s most important solar policies.  

The Xcel proposal was released in July as part of the utility’s 2013 Renewable Energy Standard compliance plan. It takes aim at net metering, a policy that encourages consumer investment in solar power. Xcel used a cost and benefit study of its own design that had not yet undergone public or commission review to make its case against the successful solar policy. In today’s comments, advocates pointed out that the Xcel study and proposal do not fairly account for the benefits that rooftop solar delivers to Coloradans.

“Xcel has significantly undervalued solar power from its customers and we are determined not to let their incomplete math be used to dismantle the most important rooftop solar energy policy on the books. While we understand that rooftop solar represents a change from the utility’s traditional way of doing business, it’s clear that Coloradans want that change. We encourage the Commission to look closely at the serious flaws in Xcel’s approach to assessing the impacts of this policy,” said Annie Lappé, solar policy director at Vote Solar.

Edward Stern, executive director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA), a joint party to the PUC proceeding, said: “Xcel’s current proposal clearly falls well short of accounting for rooftop solar’s tremendous value to Colorado. If we’re going to have a conversation about net metering, we need to make sure we’re using good, updated, accurate information that ensures a fair deal for our state’s solar customers.”

“Xcel created this study without adequate input from the Technical Review Committee (TRC) of industry experts that was mandated by the Colorado PUC,” added Meghan Nutting, a Colorado resident, TRC member and member of The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC). According to Nutting, the study uses non-current data from as far back as three years ago, and cites outdates studies – the most recent of which was completed more than four years ago.

The new study was commissioned by Vote Solar and undertaken by Crossborder Energy. It uses a Commission-approved methodology to assess the overall impacts of net metering in Xcel Energy’s Colorado territory. According to the study, the financial benefits of net metered power outweigh the costs associated with it, with a total net value of $7-11 million per year – depending on the price of natural gas, and the future cost of greenhouse gas regulations. 

Benefits of net metering include: savings on expensive and polluting conventional power; reduced investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure; reduced electricity lost during transportation over power lines; and savings on the cost of meeting carbon reduction and renewable energy goals.

Besides the grid benefits, distributed solar is delivering economic, environmental, and public health benefits to both Xcel’s solar and non-solar customers. The state now ranks 5th in the country for the amount of solar installed with enough to power over 50,000 homes. There are 275 solar companies employing 3,600 Coloradans throughout the state. In 2012, $187 million was invested in Colorado to install solar on homes and businesses.