Solar advocates and Xcel spar over the future of rooftop solar power

October 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

An attempt to find common ground on state policies for rooftop solar started Tuesday with a sharp exchange between Xcel Energy and solar-energy advocates.

The session ended with Xcel’s refusal to withdraw its proposal — which is pending at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission — to cut rooftop-solar incentives.

In turn, the representatives from Vote Solar, a solar-energy advocacy group, said they were not sure of the value of continuing the talks.

The session, hosted by the Colorado Energy Office, brought together representatives of utilities, state government and the solar-energy industry.

The goal was to try to balance the interests of utilities and the solar industry “before it degenerates into contention,” said Jeff Ackermann, director of the energy office.

The contention, however, was evident in opening statements.

Xcel’s concern is that the credit given to homes and businesses with solar panels that add kilowatt-hours to the grid is too high and burdens other customers, said Frank Prager, an Xcel vice president.

In a PUC filing, Xcel is calling for a cut in the credit, the so-called net-meter charge.

The credit is equal to the price a residential customers pays: 10.5 cents a kilowatt-hour.

If the credit isn’t cut, Xcel wants to reduce new solar installations in its Solar Rewards program by 83 percent to 6 megawatts.

“Utilities are working to stop and slow down these innovative technologies,” said Rick Gilliam, Vote Solar’s director of research.

In turn, Prager objected to the proposal that how a utility conducts its business and its planning to accommodate new technology should be part of the discussion.

“This was a missed opportunity,” said Edward Stern, executive director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group.

“(Gov. John Hickenlooper) got all the relevant parties to the table, and that was a great step,” Stern said. “But Xcel forcing net-metering into its renewable-energy-compliance plan makes it hard to have a discussion.”

Challenges to Xcel’s plan must be filed with the PUC in two weeks.

“There just isn’t enough time to do everything,” Stern said.

The energy office is, however, planning another session.

“We are optimistic because we see that people are willing to put forward their points of view,” Ackerman said in an e-mail. “The prospects for consensus should not be judged by one meeting.”

Mark Jaffe: 303-954-1912, or

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