Colorado’s Community Solar Gardens Act (HR1342), signed in June, allows for the cooperative ownership of solar arrays. Customers including those shaded by trees, living in apartments or rentals, or with historic designation will soon be able to receive a credit on their electric bill for their panels. Customers of XCEL and Black Hills Energy will be eligible for this program.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is currently engaging in a rule-making process to establish the policies under which the solar gardens program will be implemented. A series of four workshops has been convened to allow public input on the proposed rules. (These are not formal hearings- comments should be submitted in writing or delivered at future hearings.) On January 20, 2011, the fourth of four workshops will cover the inclusion or renters, “low-income” customers, and agricultural producers.
According to the Act, the Commission shall formulate policies that encourage: “OWNERSHIP IN COMMUNITY SOLAR GARDENS BY RESIDENTIAL RETAIL CUSTOMERS, AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCERS, INCLUDING LOW-INCOME CUSTOMERS, TO THE EXTENT THE COMMISSION FINDS THERE TO BE DEMAND FOR SUCH OWNERSHIP.”
Furthermore, the Act directs XCEL energy and Black Hills Energy as follows: “EACH QUALIFYING RETAIL UTILITY SHALL SET FORTH IN ITS PLAN FOR ACQUISITION OF RENEWABLE RESOURCES A PROPOSAL FOR INCLUDING LOW-INCOME CUSTOMERS AS SUBSCRIBERS TO A COMMUNITY SOLAR GARDEN. THE UTILITY MAY GIVE PREFERENCE TO COMMUNITY SOLAR GARDENS THAT HAVE LOW-INCOME SUBSCRIBERS.”
(The commission needs to define what exactly is meant by “low-income”. To avoid having to create excessive paperwork, it would make sense to include anyone who qualifies for programs such as LEAP, TANF, etc.)
It would be really, really great if we could get anyone interested in a solar garden project that fits this description to attend the meeting – January 20 from 9 AM to 12 Noon at the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) conference room, first floor, 1560 Broadway across from the Denver Post and the Civic Center.
Or, send images of yourselves or your project to firstname.lastname@example.org - we will display them at the meeting. Any written descriptions of your project and its needs would be helpful as well, and we will incorporate these in our official Solar Gardens Institute comments.