Coloradans accuse Xcel Energy of dragging its feet on solar installations to protect its profits
Some solar customers and installers say Xcel Energy is purposefully delaying hundreds of solar connections across the state to avoid losing money.
They say it's taking six months for the utility to install meters that connect solar installations to the grid.
"They have no urgency to put them in because, as soon as they put them in, that meter profit goes down," says Paul Webster.
He and his wife June decided to retire to Colorado last year and say his son, who lives here, and our sun, which shines 300 days a year, had a lot to do with it.
"When we talked about our future we wanted to make sure we went off the grid as much as possible," says June Webster.
They had a rooftop solar system installed just in time for winter, but they'll be lucky to use any of the energy before winter is over, "We have a nice sunny day out there right now and I'm paying for my electricity," says Paul Webster. "I have 18 panels on my roof and I'm paying for electricity after I paid for the solar install. 'The sooner the better,' is all I can say."
Xcel blames the high demand for solar installs. Mike Kruger with the Colorado Solar and Storage Association, which represents 275 companies, blames a new portal the utility launched last summer: "It's been just a disaster from start to finish - projects lost, projects delayed, weird error messages. Every residential rooftop company that works in Xcel is dealing with this."
Kruger says the delay is impacting hundreds of customers, who are paying for systems they can't use. Meanwhile, he says, companies are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars because most of them aren't paid for installations until energy is flowing through them.
"Financially it's devastating," says Doug Southard, owner of Southard's Solar Energy and Construction.
After 17 years in business, he says he's struggling to keep his doors open: "There's no accountability on Xcel's side to make it right, which is killing small contractors."
He says he has 29 customers waiting on Xcel and some of them, he says, have been waiting since May 2022: "It's a billion-dollar company. Bring some other people from other locations. It's beyond frustrating."
The Websters also want accountability. "I would love to see them fined for every month it takes," says June.
Kruger is calling on the Public Utilities Commission and the legislature to step in: "With no end in sight, with continued frustration, and continued impact on customers and businesses, it's time folks with regulatory and legislative power to do something."
He says the delays started a year ago and have only gotten worse with the new portal. Xcel says it's in the process of hiring more crews and says it processed more than 18,000 applications to connect solar to the grid last year - a 34% increase over 2021.
The Public Utilities Commission is investigating the delays but has no word on when, or if, it will take action.
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