Homeowners, solar installers and representatives of the business community sparred over a key credit for rooftop solar panels at a Colorado Public Utilities Commission hearing Monday.
Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, has said the so-called net-metering credit, currently equal to about 10.5 cents for each kilowatt-hour a residential solar system puts on the grid, is too high.
In its renewable-energy compliance plan, it said the value was less than 5 cents a kilowatt-hour and called for a reduction in the credit since non-solar customers were carrying the extra cost.
The solar industry and solar advocates challenged Xcel’s figures, saying they understated solar’s value.
Last week, the commission decided to create a separate case to review net metering.
At Monday’s hearing, held by Administrative Law Judge Harris Adams, the public got to weigh in on the issue.
James Hoffmeister, a retiree, said his rooftop installation is saving him $150 a month.
“It is a big mistake if the energy associated with rooftop solar is not valued,” Hoffmeister said.
Business groups, however, voiced concerns about the cost of solar and its impact on rates.
“Keeping energy affordable is essential to the economy of the state,” said Carly West, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry.
Mizraim Cordero, director of the Colorado Competitive Council, said net metering had a “hidden subsidy — not everyone is paying their fair share.”
Solar-industry representatives countered that Colorado’s solar policies had built a vibrant industry in the state.
The industry employs 3,600 Coloradans with a private investment of $187 million in the state, Hilary Pearson, a representative for national solar installer Sungevity, testified.
Another recurring point raised by people testifying was that solar provides a energy source free of carbon, which is released in burning fossil fuels, and has been linked to climate change in scientific studies.
“Net metering helps us move to a clean energy grid,” said Chris Hoffman, a Boulder resident who has solar panels on his roof.
Mark Jaffe: 303-954-1912, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/bymarkjaffe