Doing Solar Wrong

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Xcel, our utility here in Colorado, has been busy recently fighting against rooftop solar, all-the-while arguing that they’re totally for solar but the incentives aren’t needed anymore / are too expensive.

They’re also running a bunch of TV and radio ads that talk about how they “do solar right”, bragging about the amount of solar energy they do, etc.

Here’s the thing: Xcel is a big, big utility that operates across a number of states, including Minnesota. And based on this story I read from Minnesota about their approach to solar there, I think it’s hard to take Xcel at their word that they’re really pro-solar.

Minnesota is looking to build a big power plant to serve Xcel’s customers. Xcel wanted to build a gas plant. Another company proposed to do a bunch of solar. The judge on the case decided they should go with the solar because, notably, it was a better deal than natural gas:

Minnesota soon could see at least a sevenfold expansion of solar power.

In an unprecedented ruling, a judge reviewing whether Xcel Energy should invest in new natural gas generators vs. large solar power arrays concluded Tuesday that solar is a better deal.

If the finding by Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman is upheld by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Edina-based Geronimo Energy plans to build about 20 large solar power arrays on sites across Xcel’s service area at a cost of $250 million.

In a 50-page ruling, Lipman said “the greatest value to Minnesota and Xcel’s ratepayers is drawn from selecting Geronimo’s solar energy proposal …”


So basically, not only is the project producing clean energy as opposed to the gas Xcel wanted to use, but it’s a better deal for ratepayers. And what’s Xcel do? Why, attack the solar plan of course:

Minnesota, power companies attack solar energy plan

State energy officials and power companies tried Tuesday to derail a proposed $250 million solar energy project designed to meet future electricity needs of Xcel Energy Inc. customers in Minnesota.

In regulatory filings, the Minnesota Commerce Department, Xcel and two other companies that want to build natural gas power plants urged state regulators to reject Edina-based Geronimo Energy’s plans to build approximately 20 large solar power arrays across Minnesota.

The story this tells is pretty clear: Xcel wants to own it themselves, and if they don’t (like rooftop solar), they’re not for it and are going to try to kill it. They’d rather build some more gas plants. Frustratingly, they’re not reallllllly for solar, or for “doing solar right” like the ad claims (even with it’s cheaper). And that’s why they’ve been trying to kill off rooftop solar here in Colorado.

2 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Thanks, catpuzzle. I'd been seeing those "We do solar right" Xcel ads, knew that Xcel was trying to spin its bad solar policy here in Colorado, glad to see some pushback.

    With Hickenlooper nominating  corporate energy-friendly Glen Vaad for the PUC, the road for any consumer and environment-friendly solar policy in Colorado just got longer and rockier.


  2. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    "If I'd asked them what they wanted, they would have told me faster horses."

    ~Henry Ford

    The utility industry is steeped in decades-old regulatory protections that guarantees  them risk-free, Wall Street, double-digit returns while saddling its customers with all of the risk associated to escalating fuel costs.  Distributed energy and today's emerging technologies will be the death knell to those who refuse to adapt to a new world. "Doing It Right" is code for "we want (and expect our regulators to assure) that nothing changes."


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