The Vote Solar Initiative (Vote Solar) today released new study findings indicating that distributed solar energy systems currently in the Xcel service area deliver as much as $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 one of the state’s most important solar policies, net metering.
More than 17,000 Coloradans have urged regulators to reject the Xcel proposal and defend consumer solar rights.
Released in July as part of the utility’s 2014 Renewable Energy Standard compliance plan, the Xcel proposal takes aim at net metering, a policy that encourages consumer investment in solar power. The utility 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 stressed that the Xcel study and subsequent proposal do not fairly account for the many 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.
"Net metering is key to keeping Colorado homes and businesses going solar, reaching the state’s Million Solar Roofs goal, and revamping our antiquated energy system,” said Edward Stern, executive director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA), a joint party to the PUC proceeding. “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," said Meghan Nutting, a Colorado resident, TRC member and member of The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC). "This lack of best practices is exacerbated by the fact that the study uses non-current data from as far back as three years ago, and cites outdated studies, the most recent of which was completed more than four years ago."
“Solar has become an affordable option for Colorado families, schools and businesses who want more control over their electricity supply and power bills. That is why we saw such a massive outpouring of opposition to the Xcel proposal,” said Nellis Kennedy-Howard, senior campaign representative, Sierra Club. “Xcel should be working with the PUC and stakeholders to support what the public wants and what’s good for the state’s economy and environment: more local solar power.”
The new study, commissioned by Vote Solar and undertaken by Crossborder Energy, uses a Commission-approved methodology to assess the overall impacts of net metering in Xcel Energy’s Colorado territory. It finds that the financial benefits of net metered power outweigh the costs, with a total net value of between $7 and $11 million per year, depending on the price of natural gas, and the future cost of greenhouse gas regulations. Benefits include: savings on expensive and polluting conventional power; reduced investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure; reduced electricity lost during transportation over power lines, as net metered solar's surplus energy flows to the grid and is consumed locally; and savings on the cost of meeting carbon reduction and renewable energy goals.
In addition to grid benefits, distributed solar is delivering economic, environmental and public health benefits to Xcel’s solar and non-solar customers alike. Colorado now ranks 5th in the country for the amount of solar installed with enough to power 50,500 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.
Advanced Energy Economy, Clean Energy Action, Clean Power Finance, COSEIA, Dynamic Integration, EnergyShouldBe.org, Environment Colorado, Five Star Consultants, Go Green Electric, Namaste Solar, Real Goods Solar, SEIA, Sierra Club, SolarCity, Sunrun, TASC, Verengo Solar and Vote Solar.
About net metering:
Like rollover minutes on a cell phone bill, net metering gives solar customers full credit on their utility bills for the excess clean power they contribute to the grid. In place in 43 states, this simple crediting arrangement is one of the most important state policies for enabling Americans to generate their own power from solar and other renewable energy resources. Learn more at: www.protectnetmetering.org
Comments submitted today by Vote Solar and COSEIA to the PUC are available here.
About Vote Solar: The Vote Solar Initiative is a non-profit grassroots organization working to foster economic opportunity, promote energy independence and address climate change by making solar a mainstream energy resource across the United States. Since 2002, Vote Solar has engaged at the state, local and federal levels to remove regulatory barriers and implement the key policies needed to bring solar to scale.
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