Solar Users Are Freeloaders, Says Xcel Energy

electric meterWhile countries throughout Europe (and some U.S. states) are actively trying to encourage the use of rooftop solar panels with feed-in tariffs, Colorado utility Xcel Energy has decided to punish residents who want to go solar.

The utility is toying with the idea of charging a fee to all customers who install solar systems after April 2010. While Xcel claims that it will be minimal—$23 annually for a Boulder home with a 4.5 kilowatt solar array—the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association says that super-efficient homes could be charged up to $200 or more.

So why is Xcel discouraging solar power? Officials say that the fee will be used to pay for transmission lines. It's a charge that's built into the average customer's electricity rates, but solar-powered homes use so little power that they don't pay it. But as Scientific American's George Musser points out, solar users pay for their own net meters to monitor consumption and generation, pay $6 to $7 per month for meter reading costs, and pay for backup power from the grid. And solar users do utilities a favor by making to easier for them to fulfill demand during peak times and by helping meet federal renewable energy requirements.

Utilities in Maine, Vermont, California, and Florida get this; that's why they pay solar panel owners above-market rates for their electricity. For a utility that is trying to turn Boulder into the first Smart Grid City, Xcel is doing a good job of making things difficult for forward-thinking customers.

[Via Scientific American]

Related Stories:
Why the Microgrid Could Be the Answer to Our Energy Crisis
Cisco Wants to Dominate Smart-Grid Communications
A Startup Joins Google and GE in the Smart Grid Conversation

Add New Comment


  • Chris Reich

    Well, maybe this will cause such an uproar that more people will want to slash what they pay Xcel. Public outrage could make Xcel the X-utility company in Colorado.

    Chris Reich

  • Jeff Hohensee

    Xcel's push to add fees to grid tied solar PV customers will discourage installation of residential PV and long term raise costs for all it's rate payers. Solar PV reliably produces at Xcel's peak demand periods (summer afternoons when AC use is high). When enough Solar PV is installed the need for peak load units (generation
    capacity that remains dormant until peak load demands arise) can be greatly reduced. The maintenance and capital expense of peak load generation is born by rate payers. The capital expense and maintenance
    of residential Solar PV is covered privately by homeowners who install it. It is difficult not to become cynical when an investor owned utility manipulates the data to request rate increases.

    Fast Company published an excellent article that made the case that distributed power (i.e. solar PV on residential rooftops) is more cost effective and more stable than large centralized facilities.

    "The evidence is growing that privately owned, consumer-driven, small-scale, geographically distributed renewables could deliver a 100% green-energy future faster and cheaper than big power projects alone."


  • Jason Deveau

    This is disgusting. They want to punish people for generation their own electricity or selling back. No one else pays a we built the power lines fee.