Recently more than one hundred Colorado solar energy workers, customers, and supporters gathered on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol to show support for solar energy growth. The event took place before the first Public Utilities Commission (PUC) hearing on Xcel’s proposal to restructure electricity rates. At the event and hearing, Coloradans expressed concern that Xcel’s proposal to levy confusing fees on all residential customers will reduce consumer energy choice and put local jobs at risk.
“Right now, Colorado is a top ten state for solar jobs, and people are moving here specifically to work in the solar industry,” said Lauren Randall, Senior Manager of Public Policy for Sunrun. “Xcel’s confusing proposal would stifle that momentum.”
In recent years, Colorado has positioned itself as a clean energy leader and innovation powerhouse. Last August, after nearly two years of discussions, Governor Hickenlooper’s appointed PUC decided to maintain the state’s solar net metering policy. Net metering enables the right to self generation and fair credit for power sent to neighbors, and is fundamental to successful solar markets in 42 states across the country.
Solar supporters worry that Xcel is now looking for “a second bite at the apple” to eliminate rooftop solar competition. When a major utility in Nevada increased charges on solar customers, half a dozen local and national solar companies left the state. In fact, many employees came to Colorado to work in solar after operations were shuttered in Nevada. Coloradans want to prevent a similar outcome here.
“We believe public policies should encourage more distributed solar energy in order to provide customer choice, reduced air pollution and a more resilient electric grid,” said Rebecca Cantwell, executive director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association. “We hope the PUC will decide Xcel’s proposals are moving us away from those goals and instead support innovative rate policies.”