This afternoon in oral deliberations, the Public Utilities Commission unanimously voted to deny the Solar Connect proposal of Xcel Energy. The utility’s plan to sell shares of a 50 MW solar project to customers has been the subject of debate before the commission much of the year.
Advisors to the commission recommended denying the application for a variety of reasons, including that it did not provide a level playing field and would subsidize utility profits. They also noted that all intervening parties, including COSEIA, recommended denying the plan as proposed.
Commissioner Glen Vaad said he is in favor of expanding solar and providing access to those who can’t avail themselves of other programs but said it was “premature to accept the proposal.”
Commissioner Pam Patton said she was very interested in the concept and that in the future, she hopes utilities will be able to compete “on a level playing field.”
Chairman Joshua Epel said he was concerned about changes made to the proposal during the process and that it was not developed in a spirit of cooperation. He also mentioned Xcel’s “last minute disclosure” that it had purchased start-up energy for the program. Additionally, Epel said that Xcel will be filing an Electric Resource Plan in 2015 and recommended that as the proper vehicle.
PUC advisors thanked intervening parties for suggestions on improving the proposal. COSEIA recommended that if Xcel wants to get in the retail solar business, that it should do so through a separate subsidiary, and that the program makes the timing ripe for turning over solar programs to an independent third party administrator.
Because Xcel didn’t work with any of the intervenors’ proposals to modify its Solar Connect program, there was no record to develop them, and thus they were all denied.
Commissioners all voted to support the staff recommendation to deny the proposal.
Chairman Epel noted that with the Renewal Energy Standard, Distributed Generation policy and solar gardens all in place, “We have to make sure that whatever is proposed is in harmony and not in conflict.”
A written order will be drafted to capture today’s decision.