RJ Harrington Jr. is like thousands of other Coloradans. Years ago, he and his family made a large investment in rooftop solar power. At the time, Xcel Energy provided the full retail credit for the power that Harrington’s home provided to the “grid” for redistribution. This was the rate on which he based his investment strategy.
But now the Colorado utility company says his investment is worth much less than he thought, and is losing value more quickly than he imagined. “To reduce … that investment really makes an impact,” Harrington said.
Here’s the dilemma: Excel now claims that the power generated by rooftop solar panels is worth about half of the value of energy generated by other means, particularly its power plants.
Harrington believes that the benefits of his solar panel system are being miscalculated by Xcel. Things like deferred expenses were not taken into account. Even so, when is a volt not a volt?
“The benefits from a homeowner’s point of view are that I am providing power to my neighbors,” Harrington said. He disputes the idea that he is not paying his fair share because, in addition to providing power in the form of “green electrons,” he also saves Xcel the costs of maintaining and replacing their equipment as often.
“[Excel] can defer maintenance to generation stations, they can delay purchasing new generation … we have made investments in generation that help to delay the investments in generation that they have to make.”