Last week, hundreds of Coloradans gathered at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to express their support for rooftop solar and net metering (and their opposition to Xcel's proposals to undermine it). Solar proponents out-numbered supporters of Xcel by a ratio of 16 to one.
Net metering is a policy that gives rooftop solar customers in 43 states a fair credit for the excess energy they deliver back to the grid for utilities to sell to their neighbors. It is critical to the continued success of rooftop solar in Colorado. Xcel wants to roll back net metering to stifle rooftop solar growth and protect its monopoly.
Nearly 100 rooftop solar supporters attended the hearing, filling both PUC hearing rooms and overflowing into the halls. Ranchers, teachers, parents and grandparents joined rooftop solar customers and industry experts to share the same message: Coloradans overwhelmingly support policies that make rooftop solar more accessible.
This public comment session was an opportunity for the public to emphasize the importance of establishing an inclusive process for evaluating net metering, one that fairly values the benefits of rooftop solar. The growing solar industry in Colorado has also encouraged the Commission to bring to this process a third-party facilitator with deep knowledge of how to assess the benefits of solar.
Rooftop solar helps Colorado families, schools and businesses take charge of their power supply and their electricity bills. This private investment in local clean energy delivers economic, environmental and public health benefits to solar and non-solar customers alike:
- Grid benefits: Local solar energy systems reduce the need for expensive centralized power plants and transmission infrastructure, which benefits Colorado's non-solar customers. These grid benefits total up to13.6 million annually for Xcel's ratepayers in Colorado.
- Job and economic benefits: More than 300 solar companies currently employ 3,600 Coloradans throughout the state. In 2012, private investment in installing solar on Colorado homes and businesses totaled187 million.
- Energy choice for Coloradans: Recent poll results show that statewide support for net metering exceeds 70 percent in every region around the state and is greater than 60 percent across all of the key voter groups in Colorado.
The PUC is expected in the next few weeks to make a decision on the details of the process for evaluating net metering.