A community solar garden in western Minnesota (gordianenergysystems.com).
by Dan Burns
Jan 29, 2024, 7:00 AM

Xcel’s efforts to drag down solar need to be crushed

This is from an email I got from Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light:

For the past couple weeks, we’ve been sounding the alarm about how Xcel Energy has asked the Public Utilities Commission to change how Xcel reimburses existing community solar projects for the energy they produce. They’re basically asking to pay local residents 30% less than they agreed to pay them despite having signed 25-year contracts that are still in effect.

But there’s more: this drastic move is part of a broader plan to control the future of solar energy, which has also included attacks on compensation for households with rooftop solar.

If utilities and energy companies like Xcel can make community-owned solar expensive, onerous, and unreliable, they can maintain their monopoly over energy production…These tactics are being used across the United States and the world, and they’ve been extremely effective in disrupting community-led efforts to grow sustainable energy.

The whole article from which I excerpted this is very worthwhile:

Beyond the policy itself, many of the program’s troubles boil down to Xcel Energy’s hostility toward community solar. As ILSR cautioned the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in a 2021 filing, “the distribution system operator has a financial interest in preserving its own market share.” The utility’s profit motive is fundamentally misaligned with community solar, which the company views as competition to stifle. The program’s devastating interconnection delays are a symptom of this condition, including a frustrating ‘on hold’ status that the company implemented without limit. The Commission ended up charging Xcel a one million dollar fine for the interconnection delays (significant in that it happened, but insignificant by comparison to the company’s annual revenue).

Yeah, the company’s annual revenue.

Xcel Energy annual gross profit for 2023 was $8.423B, a 0.86% increase from 2022. Xcel Energy annual gross profit for 2022 was $8.351B, a 10.19% increase from 2021.

With a brand new legislative session soon to begin an opportunity to remedy all of this is here. Even a movement toward real action may well be enough to get Xcel to back off. In the longer term what’s needed is an end to massively exploitative privatized energy. But that’s another, bigger matter.

Update: There’s an article in the January 30 StarTribune titled (in the print edition) “Plan cuts red tape for clean energy.” Nothing in the article indicates that the lege is going to take up what I wrote about above. That’s no reason to despair, though, at this point.

Comment from Joe Musich:Is there a reason you did not include the upcoming zoom meeting from Interfaith ? Xcel has been in the way of community solar since day one. How they got the two Mn House reps to create a bill is beyond me. I received a letter from the community solar I am affiliated with. It was a document from Ellison’s office about the initial agreement solar garden members make with their solar garden provider. I did not totally understand it. I asked Ellison office for a call back. None has come to date. This looks like some crazy underhanded shite.

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