What will come of Solar*Rewards for Boulder residents now that 2b/2c has passed?
Boulder’s City Attorney, Thomas Carr, responds recently to City Council Member Crystal Gray about a resident’s concerns that Xcel can exclude Boulder residents from Solar*Rewards (past applications and future). To learn more about what will come of Solar*Rewards for Boulder residents now that 2b/2c has passed, read the following correspondence.
Boulder Council Hotline -
Question regarding Xcel’s press release to Thomas Carr from City Council Member Crystal Gray:
At our Oct. 18 Council meeting a resident brought up the issue of Xcel’s recent press release in which Jerome David, Xcel spokesperson, said “Voters should be aware that measures 2B and 2C do not open, but instead, close options for the city,” said Davis. “And it is misleading to say there are no adverse consequences if 2B and 2C are approved. For example, during the five or more years it will take to form the utility, we may have no choice but to discontinue, in Boulder, our Solar*Rewards, SaversSwitch, energy efficiency and conservation programs, as well as our proposed new long-term WindsourceÒ program. ”
It is my understanding that Xcel cannot discriminate against Boulder based on our geographical location nor can they discriminate against any other of their customer bases. Has something changed at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to change this? Can you please give council an analysis on this statement from Xcel since I find it inconsistent with PUC policy.
Also, regarding Xcel’s new Windsource program it is interesting that the price they will pay for their new wind is lower than the price they will pay for coal generated electricity but they will still charge their Windsource customers (of which I subscribe) an additional premium that exceeds the charge for coal based electricity. Can you please ask your Xcel counterparts why they charge their windsource customers a higher charge then what the wind actually costs? Should we go to the PUC to discuss this as well as the other question I have raised?
Response from Boulder’s City Attorney, Thomas Carr to City Council Member Crystal Gray:
… I believe that Mr. Davis’ comments reflect the pressures of a campaign rather than reasoned policy. If you read carefully you will note that he says only that they “may have no choice.” The simple fact is that state law prohibits rate discrimination. §40-3-102, C.R.S. The power of the PUC to regulate rates extends beyond just discrimination to reasonableness. Consumers League v. Colorado S. Railway Co., 53 Colo. 54, 125 P. 577 (1912). Whatever the outcome of the election, Boulder residents and businesses will continue to be Xcel Energy customers for some period of time. Xcel would have a tough time demonstrating that it is reasonable to discriminate against its Boulder customers.
Mr. Davis mentions three programs, Saver’s Switch, SolarRewards and Windsource. Windsource allow for customers to cancel with 30-days notice; Saver’s Switch allows cancellation at any time. Xcel has told the PUC that both programs are available to all Colorado residential customers.
Saver’s Switch is a demand response product that offers residential participants a $40 annual bill credit as an incentive for allowing Xcel to control their air conditioners on days when the system is stressed. It is usually used on hot summer days when demand is expected to reach near-peak capacity. Prior to 2009, Xcel set a goal to have 13,000 new Saver’s Switch customers each year. For 2009 through 2013, they have promised to have 19,500 new switches. The increase was a result of the Fort St. Vrain Decision No. C08-0369 in Docket No. 07A-469E. In that proceeding, the Commission ordered Public Service to expand its demand response efforts to meet a resource need.
Even if state law allowed Xcel to discriminate against customers, it would seem unwise to deny access to a program with high participation targets to a community that participates in disproportionately high numbers in Xcel’s demand reduction and alternative energy programs.
On June 24, 2011, Xcel filed a verified petition with the PUC seeking to reduce the price of its Windsource program in anticipation of bringing their Limon II wind farm on line. The city had intended to monitor this proceeding, but not to participate, because we generally do not object to rate reductions. Moreover, the verified petition provided that: “[t]he Windsource standard program will be available to all Public Service retail customers.” The deadline for intervention is November 13, 2011. Staff plans currently to monitor the docket and await the election results. If 2b and 2c pass, the City will intervene to protect the right of Boulder customers to participate in Windsource.
SolarRewards is a rebate program for Xcel customers who install on-site solar energy systems. It also has a disproportionate number of Boulder participants. The City anticipates that it will need to work with Xcel on a fair system to protect SolarRewards customers from any adverse impact arising from municipalization. There is no difference between new customers and existing customers from this prospective. Again, there is no reason for Xcel to discriminate against Boulder customers.