Colorado PUC Deliberates the Benefits of Net Metering

Solar supporters once again packed the house at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission yesterday as Xcel Energy and solar advocates debated the benefits of net metering.  A diverse range of supporters showed up to the panel, including the President of the NAACP Colorado State Conference.  Bryan Hannegan from the National Renewable Energy Lab first framed the conversation by referencing “Methods for Analyzing the Benefits and Costs of  Distributed Photovoltaic Generation to the U.S. Electric Utility System”.

People attending a Colorado PUC meeting

The remaining three hours of the panel centered around deliberation on the calculation methods and economic values of the benefits of net metering in Colorado. On one side, the utility cited assumptions from their last Electric Resource Plan (including a zero value for the cost of carbon), coming up with a value of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour.  Representing the solar industry, Vote Solar’s own Rick Gilliam along with Tom Beach of Crossborder Energy calculated a benefit of 18 cents a kilowatt-hour, more than double that of Xcel.  The solar industry analysis included environmental and societal benefits, such as reducing pollution and creating jobs.

The Commission was able to narrow points of disagreement to a few key areas:

  • The value of pollution emission reductions
  • The value of generation
  • Savings for distribution and transmission systems
  • Societal value

This was the second of three workshops that the PUC is holding to take a close look at this successful crediting arrangement for rooftop solar. The 3rd panel, which is expected to take place before the end of the year, will review net metering policies in other states.  Chairman Epel indicated that a 4th panel may be necessary to address any outstanding issues from the first three panels. This is important stuff for the future of rooftop solar in the Centennial State!

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