Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Xcel threatens to plow under Boulder solar gardens - We want the Public Service Company back!

Could Boulder solar gardens not have a chance to grow? Will the green shoots be plowed under? I first started hearing rumors about this from XCEL people a few weeks back.

I wouldn't be surprised if XCEL offices were #occupied by a bunch of angry Boulderites!  I also wouldn't be surprised if we saw several other towns in Colorado opting for municipalization.

Also, XCEL has taken action at the Colorado PUC that would limit the public's ability to intervene in PUC procedures.  This is aimed primarily at limiting participation by public advocate Leslie Glustrom, 2011 winner of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society's prestigious Larson-Notari award.  Leslie has uncovered naughtiness by XCEL, from liquor purchased as "office supplies" to questionable forecasts for energy prices.  Having spent the last 16 months waiting for the PUC to approve rules for community solar gardens, I am keenly aware for the need for legislation to reform this regulatory body, which is captive to the company it is supposed to regulate.

Let's remember that XCEL itself is not a living being and cannot threaten or speak. XCEL is composed of some documents, a bank account, and a bunch of people. Some of these people are doing great work putting together the solar gardens program, some have worked there since it was called "The Public Service Company of Colorado", and many are dedicated to its motto "responsible by nature".  If I worked there, I would be ashamed of the company's recent actions.

I really respect the mission of a public utility, how they are based on fairness to all.  But right now we have an investor owned utility (IOU - the perfect acronym!)  The Boulder municipalization movement is a good start, but we need to think bigger.  The question I have is: can Colorado have its public utility back, instead of a power company that weilds its power willy-nilly?  Would it be possible to have a "Public Service Company" again and boot the current management back to Minnesota?

The Solar Gardens Institute supports 2B and 2C, and will continue to develop solar gardens and seek subscribers in Boulder.



Xcel will consider denying its Boulder customers access to some of its voluntary programs, according to Jerome Davis, a regional vice president for Xcel Energy and treasurer of the utility's issue committee.

"Voters should be aware that measures 2B and 2C do not open, but instead, close options for the city," Davis said in the news release. "And it is misleading to say there are no adverse consequences if 2B and 2C are approved. For example, during the five or more years it will take to form the utility, we may have no choice but to discontinue, in Boulder, our Solar*Rewards, SaversSwitch, energy efficiency and conservation programs, as well as our proposed new long-term Windsource program."

Read more:

Joy Hughes, Founder, Solar Gardens Institute
CEO, Solar Panel Hosting LLC
(719)207-3097 direct

1 comment:

  1. Dear Joy,

    Thank you for this reminder that rather than being "Responsible by Nature", the naked truth is that Xcel is "Responsible by Legislative Mandate", and "Beholden to Shareholders". Until recently I was somewhat of a fan of Xcel, as a beneficiary in Lafayette of first Windsource, then Solar Rewards, then energy efficiency rebates. But that positive attitude began to fade when they unilaterally and without warning stopped the Solar Rewards program for being "too successful", throwing the Colorado solar industry into turmoil earlier this year. I am now awaiting a successful vote on 2B/2C in Boulder, which will serve to energize my motivation to become more active in helping Lafayette move away from Xcel and toward a municipal when our contract expires in 2015. This leads me to ask a question about Solar Gardens:

    For a municipal, presumably there will be no utility rebates, but will the Federal tax credit still be available to participants, and can Xcel play hardball by denying a power purchase agreement or refusing to put the electricity onto their grid? That is, will the Solar Gardens model still be viable for Boulder (and hopefully Lafayette and elsewhere) if they form a muni, or will other power purchase type agreements with private entities be needed to provide the (hopefully substantially renewable) electricity. Thanks...

    Larry in Lafayette