Could Xcel’s Aggressive Attacks on Solar Backfire?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

I posted two weeks ago about the next step in the fight over municipalization in Boulder, as Xcel sought to sue and forcibly keep customers who just wanted to be rid of them. I just read this article about another element of the battle, and it got me thinking:

After failing to get enough votes in either of two municipal referendums to stop the formation of Boulder’s proposed muni, Xcel filed a lawsuit in Boulder District Court earlier this month to block the muni formally created by a unanimous Boulder City Council vote May 6.

When things went to voters in Boulder, Xcel lost. Badly. Twice. And it’s not the first time that Xcel has lost big when its issue went before the voters. In 2004, for example, Colorado passed our Renewable Portfolio Standard. We were the first in the nation to do it via ballot initiative. That’s important, because it circumvented all of the money and power Xcel has cultivated in the legislature. And that’s a lot of money and power. For example, this list from FollowTheMoney shows Xcel paying TWELVE lobbyists in 2012 alone:

Lobbyist Name Years
5280 STRATEGIES LLC 2012
APONTE PUBLIC AFFAIRS INC DBA APONTE & BUSAM 2012
BEASLEY, MICHAEL 2012
BRANDEBERRY, JENIFER 2012
CONNELLY, PAULA 2012
HOPFER, JASON (JLH CONSULTING & PUBLIC AFFAIRS) 2012
MANDARICH, MARY ALICE 2012
MCKENNA, JULIE 2012
PFEIFFER, DANIEL 2012
STERMER, MICHELLE 2012
STOFFEL, FREDRIC 2012
TREICK, ETHNIE 2012

This seems to be a bit of a pattern for Xcel, and given how easy it is in Colorado to get an issue on the ballot it could also wind up as a problem for them. One place that would seemingly make sense is with the solar battles and Xcel’s efforts to kill rooftop solar and net metering policies in the state, which I’ve mentioned before. This could well wind up being a mistake for Xcel though. If the solar and environmental folks are forced to go to the ballot by Xcel’s attacks, it’s likely that they’ll start out with a lot of support, given solar’s popularity. And it’s also likely that they’ll be able to win  the ballot fight against Xcel, given how generally unpopular (and incompetent) Xcel has proven to be when it comes to elections. Certainly, if history is any indication, that sort of fight isn’t likely to wind up well for them.

For me, this really raises questions about why Xcel is pursuing such an aggressive, belligerent policy attacking net metering, since it could once again force them into a ballot fight that they’re poorly equipped for and likely to lose. But for those of us watching this fight (and those of us – like me – who are obviously biased towards the solar folks), it could wind up pretty interesting.

2 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ajb says:

    Well, if yoiu can't win on election day, try to win in court. 

  2. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Catpuzzle, Decode the PUC assertion for me. It seems as though they and XCEL are arguing that the new Boulder Municipal utility cannot condemn XCLS infrastructure assets, and that they also can't claim customers outside city limits? And XCEL wants PUC to retain exclusive regulatory power because they know the PUC will rule in their favor?

    I'm trying to become more literate on these utility issues. Like you, I'm strongly pro-solar, and peripherally involved in an effort to form a municipal utility in Pueblo. Black Hills Energy has put policies in place which are driving solar businesses into the ground, as well as the majority of their customers.

    Rep. (soon to be Senator!) Leroy Garcia has legislation pending for next session, which will limit how much BHE can gouge its customers, but that won't get at the root of the problem.

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