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Xcel Backs Off Solar Fees: Public Pressure Works

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There was very good news today on the clean energy front: Xcel Energy, in the face of a justifiably upset customer base, has changed its mind about requesting a solar energy fee from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission at tomorrow’s public hearing.

I originally covered the request here and davewolfusa followed up with an outstanding call to action post.  No matter how the fees were calculated, it was simply the idea that people with new solar power systems were going to be charged extra every month to be connected to the power grid that spurred so many to action.

Gov. Ritter is smartly trying to consider the real problem Xcel is facing as the New Energy Economy moves forward:

“We appreciate Xcel’s concerns about the cost of distributing power and maintaining the electric grid, and we will work with Xcel to study these issues moving forward,” Ritter said in a statement. […] Ritter said the GEO [Governor’s Energy Office]will analyze the costs and benefits of “distributed generation,” such as rooftop solar systems installed across a wide area, so that state regulators can use that information when deciding the costs and benefits of the rapidly growing sector.

Xcel’s spokesman also sounded pretty reasonable:

“We need to sit down to discuss the most appropriate way to deal with this issue, which we see as growing in the future, and address it for all parties involved,” [Xcel spokesman Tom] Henley said.

Xcel’s announcement said it was committed to talking with solar power advocates to address the issue of costs and payments in the future.

See, that wasn’t that hard.  Let the public know what issue you’re facing and I’m sure most folks will come to the table with an open mind.  But announcing what looks like a punitive fee to clean energy advocates without a venue to discuss it with those advocates was a bad idea.  So perhaps the lesson associated with this episode is Xcel needs to work on its communication skills with its customer base.  Let’s hope that’s improved in the future.

[Update]: johne at SquareState has an interesting take on this news.


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