Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Empire Strikes Back - Utilities Favor Big Solar at the Expense of Rooftop Solar

Anne Butterfield of Boulder reports in Huffington Post:


An eye-popping announcement came last week from Colorado's largest utility, Xcel Energy. It plans to install 170 megawatts of utility scale solar plus 450 MW of new wind power, and contract for 317MW of gas capacity to balance the renewables, plus the aim to retire one small coal fired unit. This announcement came with the comment by Xcel's CEO David Eves to the Denver Business Journal that utility-grade solar is cost-competitive with natural gas. This is without even taking into account carbon costs or compliance with the renewable energy standard. Solar makes the cut "strictly on an economic basis," he said.

That solar cost is big news for utilities where sunlight is bright and these economic values can be felt. And it's very good that Xcel is stepping up more to clean up its generation. It's provoking then, that utilities like Xcel are also racing to scale back rooftop solar. Utilities allover have been taking steps to kill or scale back net metering policy that allows homeowners to enjoy much lower bills due to their energy produced and used behind the meter.


Aiming to protect profits for its shareholders, Xcel's compliance plan in July asked the Public Utilities Commission to categorize net metering credits as "subsidies" and downgrade the value of the power, even to the point of potentially charging solar producers for their energy savings. According to Vote Solar, Xcel's proposed multiplier for power produced at residences could roll back its value by roughly 60 percent, even when that power is used behind the meter without using utility infrastructure.

Read more:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield/solar-for-me-but-not-for-thee_b_3956513.html


Of course we know this will likely mean more big solar in the San Luis Valley, supported by transmission projects.

Something similar is happening in Arizona, and big solar developers are turning on their rooftop brethren in what Greentech Media is calling a "solar civil war":


Utilities have a new ally inside the solar industry amidst the battle over net metering and the true value of solar power.

First Solar has defended changes to net energy metering (NEM) proposed by Arizona Public Service, the state’s biggest electricity provider, with an editorial and filing at the Arizona Corporation Commission in support of the utility.

First Solar’s filing calls for “revising rooftop NEM programs” because there is an imbalance in Arizona’s treatment of solar due to “generous embedded subsidies asymmetrically provided to rooftop solar by NEM.”

In an op-ed last spring supporting the Arizona Public Service (APS) proposal, First Solar CEO James Hughes expressed support for the Corporation Commission's proposed change to “a very substantial ‘cross-subsidy’ funded by all other utility customers.”

Read more:


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