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Holy Cross Energy delays new rate schedule that would have removed solar net-metering incentives

May 25, 2023, 10:37 am
Vail Mountain solar PV
Solar panels atop Adventure Ridge on Vail Mountain (photos courtesy of Vail Resorts).

Directors of Holy Cross Energy agreed on Wednesday morning to delay any new rate schedule until at least December. 

The decision was made after Holy Cross received a letter from the Colorado Energy Office asking for the delay. The rate increase proposed by Holy Cross would have removed the net-metering incentives enjoyed by solar roof-top owners, causing a much longer pay-back period for their investments. 

Bryan Hannegan, the chief executive officer, explained at an afternoon hearing on the matter that the cooperative is first with this proposal because no other utility is this far down the decarbonization path. Holy Cross expects to be at 92% renewable penetration next year.

Mike Kruger, the chief executive of Colorado Solar and Storage, charged that the proposed change would violate Colorado’s 2008 net-metering law. Kent Singer, chief executive of the Colorado Rural Electric Association, said he had helped draw up the 2008 law and that it clearly left the door open for Holy Cross to do what it proposes to do.

In recent months, other electrical cooperatives have been keenly watching this dispute. The statements of several dozen people at the session in Glenwood Springs were lively.

The solar industry sees this as an existential issue, a matter of survival. If Hannegan is right in his assessment, though, this is a problem we should be happy to have. Is there a middle ground, a different path that can be achieved through collaboration, as one speaker said? 

Dave Munk, the chair of the Holy Cross Board of Directors, described the situation with a hockey metaphor, talking first about looking where the puck goes. “There can be arguments and differences about how far and how fast, but I think we are hearing a lot of alignment today about where the goal posts are,” he said, a reference to decarbonization.

Look for a more elaborate report in Big Pivots in coming weeks—and plenty of discussion around Colorado.

Editor’s note: Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist who publishes an e-magazine called Big Pivots, where this post first appeared. Reach him at allen.best@comcast.net or 720.415.9308.

Here’s Thursday’s press release from Holy Cross Energy on the net-metering decision:

At the request of the Colorado Energy Office on behalf of Governor Polis, local rural electric cooperative Holy Cross Energy (HCE) has agreed to temporarily suspend the proposed electric rate changes intended to take effect on September 1. The decision was taken by a vote of HCE’s Board of Directors at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Board on May 24 to allow time for the Colorado Energy Office to convene a dialogue on the future of “net metering” policy in Colorado.

Under Colorado law, HCE members are credited at the energy rate for the electricity they export to the electric grid from a renewable generator, such as solar panels. HCE’s proposed rate changes included separating HCE’s current energy rate into two components: (1) a new delivery charge intended to recover the costs of operating the HCE electric grid; and (2) a reduced energy charge reflecting only the costs of the energy being delivered. Solar owners and installers have objected to HCE’s proposed rate changes based on the reduced energy charge they would receive for their exported energy.

The Board’s decision to temporarily suspend the proposed rate changes was announced at a public comment session on the afternoon of May 24, where approximately 135 members and stakeholders provided comments in person and virtually on the proposed changes. This public comment session concluded a two-and-one-half month public comment period in which over 300 written comments were received from HCE members and stakeholders.

“HCE remains committed to a responsible transition to a clean energy future that is equitable for all members of our cooperative,” said HCE’s President and CEO Bryan Hannegan. “We appreciate the time our members have taken to review these proposed rate changes and offer their comments.”

The temporary suspension of HCE’s proposed rates will be in place at least through January 1, 2024. To review HCE’s proposed rate changes or find out more about the May 24th public comment session, please visit http://www.holycross.com/rates.

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