August 5, 2009

Xcel Energy vs. Renewable Energy. ~ by Bryan Bowen.

Xcel Energy, say it ain’t so.

Xcel would like to charge users and creators of renewable, clean, American-made Solar & Wind energy much, much more. Why?

They’re probably working for the terrorists. Green architect Bryan Bowen reports. An elephantjournal.com exclusive.

~ Update: Xcel has backed down, bowing to public comment—for now!

Xcel Energy, our “local Colorado” (eight state wide) utility company, is proposing its third rate increase of the year.

But that’s not enough. They now intend to target net-metered customers (those with solar photovoltaic or wind systems) with additional charges.  These additional charges will act as an excessive barrier to our much-needed, can’t-happen-soon-enough sweeping change to American-made, renewable energy sources. And get this: this proposal has been deemed illegal in California, and is not implemented in any other state.

They are proposing a $6.75 monthly charge for residential customers.  For commercial customers, it’s $11. That’s on top of the $7.50 residential, $25 small commercial existing flat rate. For residential customers, that’s nearly twice the cost for no increase in services.  On top of that, they are proposing to use the worst month of the year (highest cost to the customer) as a baseline for another monthly fee, running throughout the year, regardless of actual usage.

That means you’d pay your year’s highest bill…every month.

Customers who provide energy input to the grid actually help companies like Xcel reduce their peak loads, which are generally driven by air conditioning on summer afternoons—when Solar PV output is at its highest.  Big peaks drive utility systems sizing inefficiently.  Also, the right of ways into our cities’ urban cores can’t accept infinite power distribution, so distributing power generation also makes sense, effectively uncapping production growth. It can reduce urban heat islands, increase reliability, and—oh, yeah—lessen our need to burn coal and build new plants.

Xcel, however, has accused net-metering customers of getting a free ride, ignoring the potential for a symbiotic relationship that is already helping them meet their required renewable energy goals.

The voters of Colorado passed Amendment 37 in 2004, showing clear support for renewables. Amendment 37, you may recall, requires our state’s larger utilities to increase their renewable energy portfolios. Not enough to make a dent in climate change or usher in the new energy era that’s coming, mind you, but enough to get attention, build some clean, red white and green momentum, and enough to make the utilities cranky.

Doesn’t it seem like the law ought to be based on the fact that we only have one planet to work with, and we ought to be on some kind of budget that avoids cataclysm? Unfortunately, not yet a part of our Governor Ritter’s New Energy Economy.

Public outcry is having an effect on Xcel’s willingness to push this effort forward—for now.  Good guys like CRES and COSEIA are following this closely.

What can we Coloradoans do?

Increase the momentum. Read the proposal for yourself, if you’d like. Submit written comments referring to docket # 09AL-299E or email the PUC.  Tell Xcel your (polite but firm) opinion via their “How are we doing?” page.  If you’d like to say something positive, you could offer support for their consideration of inverted block rates, which reward conservation rather than discourage it.

You can also attend the public hearing, at which there will be discussion across the board rate hikes of 13.5%

Public hearing:

Wednesday, August 5th
4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
1560 Broadway, Suite 250
Denver, CO 80202

Eyes on the prize!  If we’re going to get our energy budget balanced, we need to work progressively toward a renewable energy culture.

bryan bowen architects, p.c.

1510 ZAMIA AVENUE #103 n BOULDER, COLORADO 80304 n (303) 443-3629


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