04 Aug 2009
Extra fees for solar power users

Looks like Xcel Energy has decided to take the “easy” way out to adapt their billing structure to changing times — at least that’s how I interpret KMGH Denver reporter Christin Ayers’ article “Solar Customers Fuming Over Proposed Fee“.

Xcel wants to charge solar power uses a “connectivity fee” because they don’t use enough energy from the electric grid. In fact, some solar users actually feed energy back into the grid and the law requires Xcel to pay them for it. What a concept.

Apparently no one else pays a connectivity fee. According to the article “[Tom Henley of Xcel] said the fee is a preventative measure to ensure that, down the road, solar customers do not get free rides.” Xcel is also miffed that the solar users get a subsidy for installation.

My speculation (since I’ve not seen an Xcel bill) is that Xcel provides ongoing connection to the grid “for free”, rolling the cost of infrastructure maintenance into the energy-use fee. That may make some sense as long as everyone has to depend on you for energy, but times have changed.

It seems to me that the “fair” thing to do would be to break billing out for everyone to show a flat infrastructure maintence fee, and then a (theoretically lower (I heard that snicker)) per-unit fee for energy use. But that would be too complicated and risky: 1) the revision of their business rules and software would be more complicated, 2) they’d actually have to figure out the proper charges, 3) the 99.999% of their customers who don’t use solar energy would throw a fit.

It’s so much easier to just piss off a group of customers too small (at the moment) to raise much of a fuss.

h/t: Slashdot: Electric Company Wants Monthly Fee For Solar Users

image: Anarkman, SolarpanelBp.JPG, Wikipedia

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