Energy companies urge familiarity with policy as solar energy popularity increases on the South Plains
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - As the sunny South Plains prompts more property owners to invest in solar energy production, companies like Xcel Energy are encouraging customers to contact their utility company.
“We wanted people just to know what the rules were so they wouldn’t be disappointed if they invested a lot of money into something and they didn’t feel like they were getting a return that they wanted,” Xcel Spokesperson Wes Reeves said. “Plus, there’s also the issue of making sure that before you invest in a system that it is compatible with our distribution grid.”
Reeves told KCBD that an increasing amount of customers are requesting solar connections each month to their grid.
“There are more and more people interested,” Reeves said. “There are more companies now that are marketing these systems to our customers.”
Pure Energy in Lubbock is one local company that’s seen its business increase over the past few years.
“Like anything, once we started putting glass upon roofs and it became something real where people could see, touch, feel, they started opening up their process and seeing that was a program actually offered by the utility,” General Manager Rob Dickson said.
Dickson told KCBD the work began in 2017 to discuss with local utility companies how the entities would come together for the customer.
“It’s very important to develop that relationship to find out what they require,” Dickson said. “We do a lot of education with the customer about making sure that they understand what the utility allows them to do, how the exchanges work.”
He says the latest driver for solar energy are tax incentives for clean energy included in the federal spending bill passed in late 2020.
He estimates his company has gone from eight to 10 projects a month to 30 to 40.
“Get with your local utility, make a phone call and they’ll even let you know vendors like ourselves, Pure Energy who have worked with them and done installs and services with them,” Dickson said. “They can’t recommend a certain vendor out there but they can let you know who is set up to do business with them and allow this process to happen.”
The following is guidance from Xcel Energy to its customers:
Customers who wish to connect home solar systems to the local distribution grid for backup or to sell surplus energy have two options:
- The first option allows customers to generate their own power to lower monthly bills. Under this option, there is no compensation from Xcel Energy for any surplus power flowing back on the grid.
- Under the second option, Xcel Energy will install a special meter for a $20 monthly service fee that tracks the amount of surplus electricity placed back on the grid, allowing the company to compensate customers for that surplus electricity at an “avoided fuel cost rate.” This rate is based on the ever-changing cost of coal and natural gas purchased to generate electricity at area power plants. This avoided fuel cost is lower than the total retail electricity cost, or the per kilowatt-hour rate, seen on customer bills. In January, for example, the avoided fuel cost rate was 1.4 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Solar policies vary greatly by state. These policies pertain to Texas customers only. More detail can be found at xcelenergy.com/texasrooftopsolar.
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