Proposed Fee in Colorado Irks Solar Customers
Armed with a net-metering agreement and enough grid-tied solar panels, you could literally eliminate your monthly electricity bills. Poof! Gone. But, as this story from KMGH Denver demonstrates, you’d still need the utility’s infrastructure to make the arrangement work.
Solar energy customers are worried a new fee proposed byXcel Energy would punish new customers for getting solar panels. Themonthly fee, which would pay for distribution and transmission ofenergy, would go into effect in April 2010 and would have to be paid toXcel, regardless of whether the solar customer used any electricitythat month. Customers who got solar panels before April 2010 would nothave to pay the fee.
So what’s going on here? From the customer’s perspective, it seemsunfair that they be charged — even in those months where they, ineffect, don’t buy any electricity from Excel. Indeed, the mainmotivation behind installing solar panels is the desire to minimizemonthly payments. With this achieved, some Colorado solar panel ownersare, understandably, balking at the additional fee.
Now for the other side of the argument. Even if their monthly energyusage nets to zero, solar panel owners still make use of the electricalgrid and associated infrastructure: during the day, for example, excesselectricity from the panels flows into the grid, crediting the owner’sutility account; and at night, when the panels are idle, the customerdraws power just like anybody else. Solar panel owners should, Excelmaintains, be charged accordingly. Hence the proposed fee for“distribution and transmission” of energy.
Tom Henley, an Xcel Energy spokesman, initially told7NEWS that implementing the fee would level the playing field forelectricity users who are currently subsidizing connectivity fees forsolar users, who sometimes use no electricity in a given month andtherefore, pay no electrical fees.
“We just don’t think it’s fair that customers that don’t have solarpanels on their homes should subsidize these solar panel customers anyfurther,” said Henley.But when pressed, Henley admitted that currently,no Xcel electric customers pay extra to fund solar connectivity fees.In reality, Xcel absorbs those fees. The money from the proposed feewould not go into the pockets of electric customers, but would go backto Xcel. Henley said the fee is a preventative measure to ensure that,down the road, solar customers do not get free rides.
“What we’re looking to do is stop that, avoid that occurrence from happening,” he said. …
In an e-mail, Beth Hart, the executive director of the ColoradoSolar Energy Industries Association (CoSEIA), called the fee a“misplaced charge,” and said, “What Xcel didn’t include in their costanalysis were the benefits of PV (photovoltaic) to the electricalgrid.”Henley said the fee would add up to, on average, about $1.90 moreper month than solar customers currently pay.
But Ferguson [a solar energy consultant], and members of CoSEIA, worried that the fee would be much higher.
Judging from the “comments” section of the KMGH story cited above,there’s a strong temptation to view the impending confrontation betweensolar advocates and Excel as a case of corporate greed. (One commentersarcastically notes, “They’ve got to pay those executive bonusessomehow.”) I think the reality of the matter is far less controversial.After all, Excel already runs one of the country’s most prominentutility-sponsored solar rebate programs. My guess is that, in the end,a fee will be levied, but that it will be contrained by the PublicUtilities Commission.
Note: A public hearing on the matter is scheduled from 4pm to 6pm on Wednesday, August 5. See the PUC website for details.
Search 26k+ Solar Articles
- Securitization and Renewable Energy
- The All-Electric Fiat 500e
- The Energy Supercomputer
- A Breakthrough or Just Another PV Module?
- Bloom Energy Sees Revenue Drop in Q1
- Catching Photosynthesis in the Act
- Top 5 Ways The U.S Military is Utililizing Renewable Energy
- New Solar Technology to Increase Efficiency
- The Rise Of The Green Machines
- Solar Savings: Tax Credits and Solar
- Australian Scientists Printing Solar Cells Down Under
- Why are Auto Dealers Hating on Tesla?