In a press announcement, GRID Alternatives Colorado, an affiliate of the nation’s largest nonprofit solar installer, today announced its support for a comprehensive utility settlement being considered by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) this week to address significant state energy policy issues and increase access to solar power for Colorado’s most underserved communities.
Under the proposed settlement terms, Xcel Energy would expand low-income customer access by dedicating a portion of its rooftop and community solar garden capacity and SolarRewards Program specifically for this underserved customer group.
Equalizing the solar field for low-income utility customers
The settlement addresses an important equity issue, as low-income utility customers have historically contributed to distributed solar energy rebate pools through bill payments, yet have not been able to participate in and directly benefit from these investments.
“The settlement’s low-income solar provisions really demonstrate Xcel Energy and Colorado’s national leadership on energy access and equity issues,” said Chuck Watkins, Executive Director of GRID Alternatives Colorado. “The new programs would reduce the energy cost burden of our most vulnerable ratepayers and generate co-benefits like job training opportunities in the fast-growing renewable energy sector.”
The settlement agreement is a result of lengthy negotiations and is supported by diverse stakeholders, including GRID Alternatives. It proposes making almost 20 megawatts of dedicated low-income rooftop and community solar capacity available for years 2017–2019.
If approved by the CPUC, Grid Alternatives Colorado states this settlement would be one of the most robust, well-designed low-income solar programs in the country. The low-income components include: consumer protections to maximize benefits, ensuring rebates, and incentives directly reduce the electric bills of low-income subscribers; strengthening solar energy’s tie to existing energy efficiency programs; and expanding job training opportunities.
GRID Alternatives Colorado, which is a party to the settlement, is the leading installer of low-income rooftop and low-income community solar in Colorado. GRID is currently working with the Colorado Energy Office on a statewide initiative designed to demonstrate how community solar can be optimized to reduce energy costs for utilities’ highest need customers – those who spend 4% or more of their income on utility bills.
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