Griffin: Cheaper electricity for every Coloradan
Author: Felicia Griffin - November 10, 2016 - Updated: November 10, 2016
Every day working families face real, difficult decisions. From housing to food and health care to transportation, the costs for families across the state are increasing. Housing costs alone have increased statewide over 41 percent and our families must face tough choices to meet all of their needs on their monthly budget. One cost that families have a real opportunity to control and reduce could be their monthly electricity bill, should the Colorado Public Utilities Commission approve the solar settlement currently before them. The settlement is supported by consumer groups, renewable energy companies, state agencies, and Colorado’s largest electricity provider, Xcel Energy.
Although Colorado has some of the lowest energy costs in the nation, monthly electric bills account for a large percentage of a typical Colorado working family’s monthly budget and this new agreement could provide a real opportunity to help these families control costs, while producing clean, renewable energy and creating good Colorado jobs.
There are several new programs within the settlement that apply directly to low-income Coloradans and will translate into reduced costs for them. One is the ability to buy into a community solar garden. If the Colorado PUC approves this new program for solar community gardens, the settlement would enable approximately 18.5 MW of energy over three years for low-income renewable energy programs. That amounts to well over 6,000 Colorado homes and in a typical household of four family members, this program will support more than 24,000 Coloradans who struggle every month to make ends meet.
Individuals and families that participate in the low-income program will receive a fixed-bill credit from their portion of the solar garden that they subscribe to. That credit on their monthly energy bill will help lower their monthly energy bills and put more money in their pockets to pay for necessities. For many of these families and individuals to participate, they will first need to undergo a free weatherization and retrofit education program that will be administered in part by Energy Outreach Colorado. Reducing a single home’s energy consumption will enable even more homes to participate and sign up for a share in a solar garden. This program will also apply to multifamily units where many low-income families live. This effort will work to reduce energy consumption, while at the same time making solar energy accessible to more people than ever before.
Another opportunity the settlement provides is for low-income families to save money through the voluntary “time of use” or TOU pilot program, which is designed to help households better understand and balance their electricity usage during certain times of the day. By running certain appliances like the washing machine or air conditioner during certain times of the day, families can save on their electricity bills. And the best part of this pilot program is that at the end of the month, participants will get two bills — one on the new TOU program and one based on the old rate. Participants will pay whichever bill is cheaper.
This solar agreement before the PUC holds real promise for our low-income communities. The promise of cleaner air, cheaper electricity bills should be made available to all Coloradans, and the programs within this settlement will help all of us do our part to clean our air and transition to cleaner, cheaper electricity.