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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Energy and Envrionmental Tidbits 7/26/09

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Two items caught my eye today.  The first, Xcel plans backup fee for solar, demonstrates how out-of-touch and greedy Xcel continues to be.  Xcel wants to charge their customers who have solar panels to provide electricity when they demand more than what their solar systems provide.  Those customers are already hooked up to the grid, of course, which immediately raises the question, “Why?!”.  Here are the details:

Xcel is proposing a 2.6 cents per kilowatt hour fee to provide electricity from the grid.  That fee would be tacked onto the electricity rate that Xcel charges every customer.  So those with solar panels would be charged more per kilowatt hour than those without solar panels.  That’s also on top of the $7 or $8 “service fee” that Xcel charges to cover meter reading and billing.  The only spot of good news from this proposal is that existing solar customers would be grandfathered in – not subject to Xcel’s new fees.

If a person’s house is already hooked up to the grid and has been drawing power from dirty energy for any length of time, what justification could Xcel have to charge that person more per kilowatt hour if they install clean energy and reduce overall demand from our antiquated and overused energy transmission system?  Moreover, solar panels can easily generate more power than an owner uses while collecting the energy.  Customers are credited for that excess energy because it is used by the rest of Xcel’s grid.  Thus, Xcel’s transmission and generation costs are actually lowered by these customers.  So future customers will be penalized for that service?  Do Xcel customer’s have the ability to go to the PUC and demand that the energy they sell to Xcel should match the highest rate they have to pay Xcel?  If they don’t, then energy producers don’t have equitable access to the energy market, do they.

I can envision this doing one of two things.  The first is it puts a crimp on the future growth of solar panels in Colorado.  Why would people, especially in a severe recession, pay thousands of dollars to put in solar panels and then be charged more per kilowatt hour for the same electricity that their neighbor would be charged?  It’s easy: solar panels are less desirable in such a market, ensuring that we remain stuck on dirty energy longer, thereby raising the cost of future climate change mitigation.  The second is it drives people to go off the grid.  If people can generate and store the energy they produce, what use would they have for an energy corporation whose primary purpose is to generate a profit?  And before this second scenario is dismissed out of hand, realize that energy storage technologies will continue to advance.  Add in upgrading a home’s energy efficiencies, ability to generate its own power and store excess energy, and the Xcel way of business doesn’t seem so stable or profitable.

The second item was an announcement from Gov. Ritter’s office:

Gov. Bill Ritter said today [July 23] he will oppose the federal government if it moves ahead with a proposal to ship thousands of tons of mercury to a waste storage site south of Grand Junction.

Well, that certainly is good news.  Here’s the reasoning:

The risks to ground and surface water are too great. The risks to our air quality are too great. The risks of transporting elemental mercury over long distances and on routes that run adjacent to or cross major water sources, such as the Colorado River, are too great.

That sounds really great too.  Um, Gov. Ritter, I have a question: if you’re willing to refuse mercury storage, why hasn’t the state done more to stop toxic chemicals from being forced underground in order to drill out gas and oil?  I realize there are some differences in the two cases (government vs. corporations being one), but shouldn’t the quality of our ground and surface water be fought for, regardless of who could potentially foul it?

Thanks go out to Brahman Colorado, whom I met for the first time yesterday.  Fracing was the topic of a very good discussion, and this mercury announcement put it into even further context for me.

Cross-posted at SquareState.


One thought on “Energy and Envrionmental Tidbits 7/26/09

  1. Pingback: Xcel Backs Off Solar Fees: Public Pressure Works « Weatherdem’s Weblog

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