Over 200 Turn Out to Oppose Xcel’s Phase II Rate Case
Solar system owners, installers, public policy advocates and a large contingent of people from the new Denver office of SunRun all turned out June 9th for a hearing at the Public Utilities Commission on what is potentially the most significant PUC filing in Xcel Energy’s “Our Energy Future” initiative.
While some speakers appeared to track the points made in Xcel’s wide-ranging PR campaign – that the new rate structures were “easy to understand” and “gave consumers control over their energy bills” – the vast majority of people testified that the impact would be precisely the opposite.
The AARP representative said they oppose the new rate structure because “customers won’t know when their fees increase…they need to know their energy use in real time,” which is not currently possible with the Xcel technology.
The new rate structure will discourage investment in solar and conservation
Other witnesses said the new rate structure was clearly an effort to limit the expansion of solar in Colorado because rooftop solar is cutting into Xcel’s profits. One speaker noted that other utilities in the US are facing similar problems, but that “most are using the carrot instead of the stick,” and that Xcel’s treatment of rooftop solar was “punitive.” A new solar owner complained that it had taken her four months to commission an average sized solor system, because the Solar*Rewards allocations normally sell out within five minutes, and she had failed to make the queue month after month. “That,” she said, “is obviously a sign of pent-up demand for solar.”
“The current rate case will only further confuse ratepayers about the economic benefits of solar, and is likely to create enough doubt to prevent them from investing,” said Erik Bruner of SunRun.
Only Costs – Not Benefits – of Solar Considered in Xcel’s Proposed Rate Structure
Many people made the point that in 2015, after extensive hearings and expert testimony, the PUC had decided to leave the current net metering rules in place, and that there was no need for new rates. So why was Xcel coming back so soon with new rate proposals? The assumption underlying the current rate case is that solar is costing Xcel money. However, many people made the point that the new rate proposals do not take the financial benefits of solar into account, nor the urgency of responding to climate change. Several witnesses called for impartial research on the impacts of the current rate proposal on the solar industry and on Xcel, before the PUC makes any decision. “What we should be doing now,” said one witness, “is encouraging the development of clean energy and conservation, and it’s crucial that our electricity rate structure reflects those values. This will do the opposite.”