xcel-drags-feeteditors-blog-entry3Can you imagine hiring a company to do some work on your house that told you the following — ‘We’ll get around to that sometime. It might be in two weeks, it might take two months, we just don’t know (and we really don’t care)’?

You wouldn’t go with them, would you!? You’d go out and find someone who could do the job quickly and efficiently. And you’d almost certainly have no trouble finding a company eager to do so.

Unfortunately, in the United States, the alleged paragon of the free-market, there is no competition for a certain type of crucial company every American homeowner and renter must deal with: the power utility. You either sign up to get your electricity and gas from a single power company, or you don’t get any gas or electricity. Period.

Right now, we’re dealing, in a concrete way, with the frustrating reality of utility monopoly in the U.S. and in Colorado. Two-and-a-half weeks after REC Solar finished installing a beautiful 5.59 kW solar system on our perfect-for-solar-south-facing roof, our utility, Xcel Energy, has yet to come out and install a new net meter.

(By the way, even supposedly “socialistic” Germany offers far more choice in terms of who you can buy your power from than the U.S. — but that’s grist for another entry.)

we-got-solar-small-box1Right now, we’re dealing, in a concrete way, with the frustrating reality of utility monopoly in the U.S. and in Colorado. Two-and-a-half weeks after REC Solar finished installing a beautiful 5.59 kW solar system on our perfect-for-solar-south-facing roof, our utility, Xcel Energy, has yet to come out and install a new net meter.

That means our solar system has been sitting completely idle during the most productive, sunny days of the year. Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to turn the system on until Xcel installs the new net meter and has officially logged us into its slow-moving, decidely residential-solar unfriendly bureaucracy.

We’ve gotten the clear message that Xcel doesn’t care much about its Solar Rewards customers in a number of ways:

  • First, Xcel has given us a hard time about the size of our system;
  • Second, it’s refused to return a $250 “refundable” deposit based on the issues surrounding the sizing of our system, issues too complex to explain here;
  • Third, Xcel is taking its time getting out to our house and getting our solar system online;
  • Fourth, we, as Xcel Solar Rewards customers, get no direct communication, much less encouragement, from Xcel. None whatsoever.

We have no idea when Xcel might come and install the net meter. We’ve not received any information from Xcel on who to contact if we have questions, no e-mails, no 3×5 mailers welcoming us into the Solar Rewards Rebate program, nothing explaining the process. Just the cold, dehumanizing shoulder of a giant utility that can treat customers as it wishes because it has no competition.

How (un)American is that?

Fortunately, not all utilities are like Xcel. I recently talked to a solar system owner in Southern California who said his utility got his system officially online within two days of its installation.

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Again, with Xcel, here in Colorado, we’re at two and a half weeks — and ticking — during prime summer sun time.

So far, I estimate we, Xcel, and Xcel customers, have lost out on 377 kWh of power production, or about 29 kWh per day. That’s about $42 in lost savings for us. Not a lot, but everything matters for us, especially after we’ve just cut a check for $10,500 for the system.

Our solar company, REC Solar, tells me that legally, Xcel has 60 days to install our new net meter. That’s right, 60 days!

Right now, it’s beginning to look like it could very well take the full two months, or something approaching that, before we’re officially online.

In the meantime, we’re losing out on 29 kWh of daily electric production, or about $3.20 per day. Multiply that by the number of people in the Xcel Solar Rewards backlog right now, almost certainly dozens and dozens of homeowners — perhaps more — and we’re talking about a significant number of kilowatt hours and consumer money lost.

Of course, that extra cash is being pocketed by Xcel. Not a bad deal for our local utilty monopoly, eh?

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