Yesterday (Aug. 26), after an 18-month series of discussions, Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) decided to keep the state’s net-metering policy as it is. As solar power has become an increasingly less expensive and more popular option across the U.S. and in sun-rich states like Colorado, utilities have come to see it and net-metering policies, as a threat to their business model. As such they and fossil-fuel companies are increasingly fighting net-metering policies, to mixed results, in states like Colorado, California and Arizona.
Colorado was the first state to implement a renewable energy standard (RES) and still has one of the nation’s highest requirements for clean energy. As such utilities have successfully scurried to add in more wind and solar power. However, they prefer to add in large installations that take advantage of scale to help keep prices lower.Net-metering, which allows homeowners and businesses to install solar power and get reimbursed for the power they send back to the grid at higher rates than the utility pays for electricity from other sources, reduces the amount of money the utility makes. As such the utilities want to reduce or end such policies and claim that customers with solar power are not paying their fair share for the grid maintenance and their use of transmission lines. But net-metering policies also provide an incentive for homes and businesses tied to the electric grid to go solar and without such policies in place they’d have little reason to go solar. Despite utility claims, reports continue to find that net-metering delivers benefits for all utility customers, too.
"We believe net metering provides an important right for consumers to generate their own clean energy and receive fair credit for power they are sharing with neighbors,'' said Rebecca Cantwell, executive director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association. “This decision will hopefully provide confidence to people who are considering going solar that this key policy will remain in effect.''
"The Commission proceeding over the past year allowed parties to recognize areas of agreement, including that Colorado's solar customer investments should be protected,” explained Nate Watters with The Alliance for Solar Choice. “This allows customers to safely contemplate investment in solar while providing stability to the industry for the time being, a positive result for the people of Colorado and those employed within it.”
The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) and other solar industry supporters also praised the PUC, Chairman Joshua Epel and Commissioner Pam Patton, for keeping the discussion open and listening to all sides. "We look forward to continued engagement in these discussions so the state of Colorado can reap the long-term benefits that come from these smart energy policies,” said Sean Gallagher, SEIA vice president.
"We appreciate the Commission's commitment to an open process that allowed community stakeholders to have their voices heard on this important issue,” said Jessica Scott, regional director of the Interior West for Vote Solar. “Maintaining the state's successful net metering program will keep the way clear for families, schools and businesses to save with solar and to be part of a healthier, more resilient energy system for Colorado.”Tweet