Xcel must remove roadblocks to going solar

By Bobby King on June 27, 2022

Monopoly utility Xcel Energy is making it too hard for Minnesotans to go solar. Xcel is unfairly passing the costs for grid upgrades on to some customers who install solar. This can make going solar uneconomical. That’s why Solar United Neighbors is working with fellow solar-supporting organizations, Vote Solar and the Institute for Local Self Reliance, as well as the City of Minneapolis. Together we’re calling on Xcel to improve the process of interconnecting solar to the grid.

How Xcel is  limiting  solar

Xcel can require potential solar customers to pay for grid upgrades when it deems them necessary for connecting their solar array to the electrical grid. This added cost can make solar unaffordable and prevents many people from going solar. These problems are slowing the growth of residential solar in Xcel’s service area. This means fewer solar jobs, fewer energy options for Xcel customers, and less renewable solar power available on the grid.

The Minnesota’s Public Utility Commission (PUC), which is responsible for regulating investor-owned utilities, ordered Xcel to establish a cost sharing pool for these grid upgrades. Funding for this pool would come from a $200 fee charged to future solar customers. This  pool would  cover up to $15,000 of grid upgrade costs. Solar supporters pushed the PUC to create this program as a way to get more solar online.

Unfortunately, Xcel’s proposal to the PUC for how to manage the program is fundamentally flawed.

How to fix Xcel’s flawed proposal

Working with fellow solar advocates, we’re now asking the PUC to make the following changes to Xcel’s proposal for this program:

  • Xcel must operate the fund at a temporary deficit when necessary. It can do this knowing that over time the $200 fee will cover costs. Xcel proposes that the cost sharing fund never run a deficit. This means that sufficient funds may take a year or more to accrue. Additionally, there will be periods where the fund is drawn down and not useful.
  • This cost sharing proposal should go forward only temporarily. Xcel should transition to paying for upgrade costs. These costs are part of its responsibility to maintain and modernize the grid. In addition, these upgrades benefit all Xcel customers and should not be borne by one select group only.
  • Low-income Xcel customers  going solar should not pay the fee.

Read SUN, Vote Solar, ISLR and the City of Minneapolis’s full comments to the Minnesota PUC and learn how we can keep solar growing in the state.