Net metering wars move to Colorado



The net metering wars that began in California and Arizona have now moved into Colorado. Protesters recently demonstrated outside Xcel Energy's Denver office. The utility has proposed to change how it handles its net metering incentive.


Xcel has asked to redefine the net metering credit -- the price for providing solar power to the grid -- as a subsidy. Under the current program net metering customers get 10.5 cents per kWh. But Xcel believes this allows them to avoid 5.9 cents per kWh in costs. Those costs are then shifted to other customers.


Xcel's proposed change "would greatly reduce the economic viability" of rooftop solar, said Rebecca Cantwell, spokeswoman for the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association, as quoted in the Denver Post. "Xcel is valuing solar at 4.6 cents and they want to pay themselves that 6-cent difference," said Meghan Nutting, director of policy and electricity markets for SolarCity.


Xcel currently has about 250 MW of solar, and the utility has 17,000 residential rooftop solar systems enrolled in its net metering program. In addition, it has two "solar farms" in the works that will total 170 MW.


The solar industry is concerned that reductions in net metering credits will reduce the appeal of their products. This is especially true since many states are planning to reduce the tax credits and other incentives they currently provide to stimulate rooftop solar.


"There's going to be a significant scaling back of the net metering subsidy in the next generation of the policy," said Matthew Freedman, staff attorney at consumer advocacy group the Utility Reform Network told EE News. "The problem is that the current program is just too rich."


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