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Colorado power company wants to ratchet up fees on solar freeloaders

As Scientific American’s George Musser knows, installing solar panels on your roof is a lot easier – and cheaper – said than done.  Now, if a Colorado power company has its way, solar aficionados are going to have to start shelling out even more dough to be hooked into the power grid.  

Xcel Energy has proposed charging a new fee to customers who install solar systems after April 2010, the Denver Post reports. The fee would be linked to the home’s electricity consumption and help the company maintain its aging power grid.  

Solar customers already foot the bill for installing solar net meters that monitor generation and consumption. They also pay $6 to $7 per month to cover meter reading and billing expenses, and pay for backup power when the panels aren’t meeting a home’s energy demand. Xcel wants to leverage an additional infrastructure upkeep fee that could range from $23 to $274 per year.  

Musser points out that he already pays for the infrastructure by paying the same rates to buy electricity as any other user. “To me this is a step in the wrong direction,” he says.

Solar customers help utilities meet peak demand in the middle of the day, and also help the companies meet federal requirements for renewable energy use. Four states, including California and Florida, incentivize solar through feed-in tariffs that pay users more for power they generate than power they use. “This is almost like a feed-in penalty,” Musser complains, “It’s a really negative step.”  

In March, Musser posted a blog asking if he was a freeloader for installing solar because of all the subsidies he has received.

Image of solar panels courtesy Allan Henderson via Flickr

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