Following claims that Xcel Energy wasn’t doing enough to further community solar in Colorado, the utility has announced a settlement agreement with solar developers that will see Xcel add up to 60 MW of new solar garden capacity in the state through its Solar*Rewards Community program this year.
Xcel Energy and developers Clean Energy Collective, Community Energy Inc. and SunShare filed a settlement with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to add the new community solar through a request for proposals (RFP) in 2016. In the agreement, Xcel Energy also committed to participate in ownership of up to 4 MW of community solar, which will exclusively serve low-income customers and non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations.
As the utility explains, a community solar garden is a community-shared solar array, with grid-connected subscribers, which allows consumers to access the benefits of solar energy without needing to install rooftop systems.
Xcel says the agreement, which must be approved by the CPUC, proposes to address several issues that had been contested by parties in recent years:
- Resolution of community solar RFPs for 2014 and 2016. By CPUC rules, between 6.5 MW and 30 MW of community solar can be added per year. Xcel Energy will now seek to add up to the maximum amount allowed;
- Revision to customer-specific rate calculations for commercial and industrial customers, on a going-forward basis (current solar garden customers will not be impacted). Long term, this will allow Xcel Energy to revise the rules for the further expansion of the program and keep costs lower for both participants and non-participants; and
- Provide transparency and clarity for potential community solar garden providers to ensure a broad marketplace for participation.
“ This settlement is a prime example of Xcel Energy’s efforts to deliver to its customers more choices for their energy needs, including our low-income and non-profit customers,” says David Eves, president of Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel Energy company.
“We are pleased to work closely with Xcel Energy to help ensure the Solar*Rewards Community program is a win for everyone. The outcome is a testament to the value of community solar in the state’s current and future energy strategy,” adds Paul Spencer, founder and CEO of Clean Energy Collective.