Xcel Looks Out for Number One, Tries to Stifle Public Participation

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Sometimes your opponents make your case even better than you can.

Vote Solar has intervened in a regulatory proceeding in Colorado to make sure that owners of solar systems get fair credit for their generation. We were concerned that the utility, Public Service Company of Colorado, and Xcel company, would use the proceeding to try to protect its own monopoly business against the interests of its customers who are increasingly going solar.

We didn’t have to wonder if that was the case for long. Xcel filed a legal motion to block us from receiving critical information about the case because…well, really, they say it best:

“We are objecting to Mr. Gilliam because he is the Director of Research and Analysis for Vote Solar, who by his own testimony ‘oversees policy initiatives, development and implementation’ to ‘remove regulatory barriers and implement key policies needed to bring solar to scale.’ He testified that he is representing the interests of the 3300 members of his organization in Colorado.

By our own testimony we represent Coloradans who support solar! This is only objectionable, of course, if you are an entity not interested in seeing barriers to solar removed or the interests of solar-loving Coloradans served.

Further:

“In its Motion to Intervene in this docket, Vote Solar explained that it “represents the interests of its members … relating the growth of distributed generation in Colorado.” Vote Solar also explained that it represents the interests of solar photovoltaic generators that will wish to sell power to Public Service. Vote Solar justified its intervention by claiming that the Company’s proposed tariffs would have the effect of “reducing the value of distributed generation in the form of solar QFs .. [and]would substantially impact the growth of distributed generation of solar generation in Colorado.

There is no question that developers of distributed generation in Colorado are direct competitors (and/or vendors) to Public Service Company of Colorado.”

There you have it, folks: Vote Solar is representing you. You are competitor to the utility. And if you want to go solar they think you should jump in a lake.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

The good news conclusion to the story is that the Commission has seen through PSCo’s attempt to usurp its regulatory authority and the due process rights of participants in the regulatory process. In a hearing yesterday, the judge in the proceeding thoughtfully denied the PSCo’s objection and allowed Vote Solar’s technical expert to have full access to the information.

We take our collective hats off to the hard working Commissioners and hearing officers in Colorado and across the country who have the difficult job of balancing many public and private interests in a fast-changing electricity world. We often say the interests of a few utilities should not outweigh the interests of the people they serve in these important decisions. We are grateful that the Colorado Commission stood strong to make sure that public stakeholders have a say in the regulatory process. We hope they’ll move in favor of a transparent and inclusive stakeholder process again in their upcoming net metering decision.

Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.