Monday, July 6, 2015

A co-located article on Xcel's Community Solar Drama

Why is Community solar important and relevant?

1: Community solar gardens (CSG’s) have the potential to help the low-income save about 5% on their utility bills which is why it is competitive. The St. Paul Public Housing Agency is becoming an anchor for CSG projects because of the economic justice community solar provides. You can read more on that amazing story with this addendum.

2: However, Xcel has issued a regulatory filing with the Public Utilities Commission to try to slow the Community Solar program down. Read this addendum to learn more about the background story on CSG’s and for more details on Xcel’s filing.

3: Xcel wants to cap the aggregate size of CSGs allegedly out of concern a bigger than expected CSG program would pose rate hikes for customers and you can read more about their reasoning with this addendum here.

4: However, the signs point toward Xcel being worried about the community solar garden programs getting competitive enough to infringe upon their market share. Read this addendum to explore more about what could be Xcel’s real motivation

5: After this long and contested proceeding at the insistence of Xcel Energy, the MN Public Utilities Commission has imposed a limit of 5 clustered single megawatt (CSG) projects as the most that independent energy companies want to build. Read this addendum to find out more about how the MN PUC ended up ruling on the issue.

6: I personally sat through all 7 hours at the PUC hearing on community solar on June 23rd so that I could share first-hand observations and I can attest that not all CSG developers have the same position on the co-location issue. What the PUC agreed to was a partial settlement reached between Xcel and several community solar developers that not all developers proposing projects in MN agreed with. Read this addendum to find out how their opinions differed.  

7: Xcel could make a valid point that they are friends of the Community Solar program who just do not want to see it turn into a way for big corporations to profit at the expense of smaller customers in actual communities. Xcel is probably recasting their actions as being supportive of CSG developers who are actually doing community scale solar as opposed to sneaking in utility-scale solar under the community solar banner. However Xcel hit Community Solar developers with another cloud of uncertainty by being so slow to offer developers the information they needed about the capabilities of the distribution grid. Read this addendum about Xcel’s lack of transparency.

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