Xcel energy has been fighting the loss of market share through its efforts to curb rooftop solar in areas in Colorado. The Alliance for Solar Choice is striking out against the utility for disregarding consumer choice in what they call “an attempt to protect its monopoly status and inflated profit margins.” This would occur if Xcel were able to eliminate the fair credit customers with rooftop solar receive for delivering their excess solar energy to the grid.
Last week’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.”
According to The Alliance for Solar Choice in 2011 and 2013, Xcel spent more than $2 million telling the citizens of Boulder that the utility knows better than the community; yet they say, consumers are not buying it. Xcel is currently 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 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) said The Alliance for Solar Choice. 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.