Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Solar Rethink

Good news today, in the wake of this afternoon's PUC hearing to consider Xcel Energy's request for a rate hike.

Xcel informed the state yesterday that it was stripping from its request a controversial fee that would have levied an additional charge on customers with solar power systems tied into the power grid. Seems that the pressure exerted from the public, solar consumers and installers, and the Governor's Energy Office caused Xcel to rethink this part of their request.

The Denver Business Journal delivered a very balanced and thorough account of the issues surrounding the fee. It included some of Xcel's concerns regarding what they perceive as a free ride that solar is getting. Here's a sample:

Since many solar-powered customers don’t have a monthly bill, they don’t pay embedded costs for things such as power plants, transmission lines, or equipment upgrades at power plants that are aimed at improving air quality, (Xcel spokesman Tom) Henley said.

They also don’t pay fuel costs associated with generating electricity at night, or pay into the “Solar*Rewards” fund that Xcel uses to pay rebates for new solar power systems, Henley said.

Regardless of what you think of the future of solar power, I've read about some of the advances. Japanese companies such as Kyocera and Sharp are making significant strides in the area of lightweight, flexible, and cost-effective solar arrays, and the less you draw from the grid to run your things, the less money Xcel makes, or at least they think so.

So with all parties understanding what each other wants and has planned for the future, it's prudent to share those things with concerned citizens, business owners, utilities, and those otherwise engaged in noteworthy activity to reduce Colorado's carbon emissions in the form of fossil fuels to generate power.

Then again, today's PUC hearing could be crashed by the body-snatched drones of talk radio, shouting over people that solar power is a socialist plot to weaken the oil and coal producers so that they can be more easily nationalized by the non-native-born occupant of the White House...

Time to get some sleep.

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