- The Colorado Public Utilities Commission this week approved a settlement between Xcel Energy and two dozen solar and customer interest groups, bring the parties to common ground on the utility's rate case, a controversial large-scale utility solar program and review of the state’s renewable energy plan.
- The settlement allows Xcel to offer subscriptions to a new 50 MW solar facility through its Renewable*Connect program, eliminates a proposed fixed-monthly grid charge , and allows for the acquisition of more than 300 MW of on-site solar and community solar gardens.
- In addition to eliminating proposed monthly grid charges, the settlement also calls for developing a pilot program that will precede the potential full-scale rollout of residential time-of-use rates.
Colorado regulators have given final blessing to a broad settlement that brought together 26 advocates and spanned three proceedings, which some described as a "monumental achievement."
The settlement resolved issues surrounding Xcel’s phase II electric rate case, a solar subscription program, and the company’s 2017 Renewable Energy compliance plan. Of the 26 interveners brought t the table, 24 of them approved of, or did not oppose, the deal.
The PUC also emphasized that future acquisitions of renewable energy should be proposed through the Electric Resource Plan process, where resources have to be bid competitively and evaluated against other potential resources.
Interestingly, one of the time-of-use pilot projects will add a residential demand charge on the monthly bill. Residential demand charges have garnered controversy in utility proceedings dealing with rate reform. Critics have said their complexity is hard for the average ratepayer to understand. But supporters have said demand charges are techologically agnostic compared to their TOU counterpart.
The cities of Denver and Boulder were parties to the settlement, along with major environmental advocacy groups, state and national solar power trade groups, large industrial customers, PUC staff and the Office of Consumer Counsel.
Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association Executive Director Rebecca Cantwell said the decision would allow the states "vibrant solar industry to move ahead." And in addition to saving money, the settlement gives residents "more control over their energy use by having the option to choose to try out advanced rates."
The settlement, in addition to eliminating proposed monthly grid charges, calls for developing a pilot program that will precede the potential full-scale rollout of residential time-of-use rates.