April 2021
As spring takes hold and Earth Day approaches, momentum towards clean energy is building. President Biden’s infrastructure plan includes critical components including a national clean energy standard for electric utilities - something climate activists have long advocated. It includes extension of important tax credits for solar and wind, funding for electric vehicle developments and much more.

Closer to home, Xcel Energy released its new Colorado Electric Resource Plan outlining investments it plans in coming years. The company proposes procuring enough wind, solar and battery storage to result in 80% renewable energy by 2030. The plan will be subject to lengthy review by the Public Utilities Commission and interested groups.

Beyond national and state actions, local policies can have a profound effect on clean energy development. In this month’s issue, we focus on rooftop solar energy and policies that make it easier or harder for citizens to install photovoltaic panels on the roofs of their homes. 

Electing Local Solar Champions

In various parts of the state, citizens are fighting to make it easier to go solar. In some areas, that means changing elected leaders of the rural electric coops that provide electricity in much of Colorado.
For example, Intermountain Rural Electric Association serves more than 160,000 customers as Colorado’s largest distribution electric coop. It provides electricity to an area stretching nearly from Buena Vista across the southern metro area and Douglas County to the eastern plains. IREA in 2015 created a punitive charge only for customers who install rooftop solar, called a load factor adjustment. Because it adds about $500 a year to solar customers’ bills, this charge has all but shut down rooftop solar in the territory. Residents of the coop have organized to try to reform IREA. Three candidates are running for board seats this month to provide cleaner, cheaper energy, including eliminating the solar charge. They are Kevin Bierbaum, Michael Edwards (above) and Scott Graber.
The election, open to homeowners in the territory, ends April 25. Information about the issues and candidates can be found at the Energy Freedom Colorado web site
Putting a Lid on Rooftop Solar Fees

Other local jurisdictions make it harder for citizens to go solar when they impose stiff fees on permits. The Fair Permit Act was passed a decade ago in Colorado to cap fees, but some local governments have tacked on other kinds of charges to the cost of a solar energy system.

A bill expected in the Colorado Legislature this month seeks to tighten the cap that government agencies can charge for permits to $500 per residential system and $1,000 per commercial system. It also would include a similar cap on permit fees for energy storage systems as customers start to add battery storage systems to back up their solar energy systems.
Is there an APP for that?

Efforts have been underway for years to make it easier to secure permits for rooftop solar systems because slow and cumbersome local processes for permits and inspections can add an average of $7,000 to the cost of a home solar energy system.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is working with partners around the country to develop Solar Automated Permit Processing (Solar APP) as a simple standardized online platform. Free to local permitting officials, it would enable standardization for instant permitting as well as evaluate safety and code compliance.
More information: SolarAPP (nrel.gov)
See How Solar Panels on Your Roof Will Help You Save Money
If you are curious about how you might benefit from your own solar energy system, the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour is for you.

Through our virtual tour, you can see how your neighbors transformed regular houses into extraordinary homes, and how builders created homes that use net zero energy. Short videos will make you feel like you are learning directly from the homeowners.

You can see energy-saving technologies in action including solar electricity from PV panels, Solar heat from thermal panels, air source and ground source heat pumps, and state-of-the-art efficiency measures throughout. You can find tips for your home by watching videos and listening to expert lectures from top pros.

SAVE THE DATES: 2021 IN-PERSON TOUR September 11 in Chaffee County,
October 2 in Denver area
Join Our Community and Take Action!
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Upcoming Events

Energy Use in Colorado's Cannabis Industry
When: 7 - 8:30 pm Thursday, April 15

Wil Mannes will speak about energy use and management within the Colorado cannabis industry. Colorado is home to ~900 licensed cannabis cultivation facilities and electricity is a key component for all indoor farming operations. Sponsored by MDCRES.

April Articles Club: The Future of Solar Power + Water
Wednesday, April 14th at 3pm EST
Sponsored by SUN of Colorado

Three Stories We Think You'll Want to Read

Energy Tips: From Cheap to Steep
Since Colorado passed Amendment 37 as the nation's first voter-approved clean energy performance standard in 2004, the state has seen a huge growth of Solar PV on homes. The cost of PV has come way down and the power producing efficiency of a PV panel has increased from 13% to 21% of the Sun’s photon collection. 

The old 2006 panels were about 170 watts per panel while today’s panels are generally 400 watts per panel. Also, the cost of battery backup is coming down rapidly. As a result, many folks are upgrading their old PV systems. Here are three choices for adding solar electric energy to your home today:
1)     Cheapest: Purchase a Used system
2)     Purchase a new modest PV panel system without battery backup
3)     Purchase a new PV system with energy storage through batteries for protection during outages and to take advantage of Time of Use billing coming soon.

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Produced for New Energy Colorado by Rebecca Cantwell