Community Owned Solar: The Empire (Xcel) Struck Back

The MN Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has gone forward with Xcel's proposal to alter the bill credit rate for subscribers to early community solar projects, with some modifications. The MN PUC also decided on a 3-cent adder for residential subscribers to solar gardens whose bill credits had been covered under the Applicable Retail Rate, which is to last for an indefinite period. The MN PUC also included a 1 cent adder for general service subscribers for one year. These changes are supposed to take effect 4/1/25. The 3-cent adder though, is not enough to make residential subscribers whole and it also no longer shadows the retail rate (what you pay the utility) which eliminates the guarantee of rate savings. The PUC order has not been posted yet but we will include the link when it does. 

For more coverage of this story:

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Community Power Accomplishments in 2023 + plans for 2024

Here is our (belated) end of year update as far was what Community Power accomplished in 2023 and our goals we are looking forward to pursuing in 2024. We are so grateful for anyone who has donated to or otherwise supported Community Power’s energy democracy work alongside partners locally, regionally, and nationwide. Your contribution, as always, is tax-deductible. This year,  we are gearing up for more some unprecedented actions with the same mission to build clean, local, equitable, affordable, and reliable energy future here in Minnesota and to create ripples beyond. 

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Xcel puts red tape on Minneapolis solar project through excessive interconnection fees

The 2023 Q4 Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership board meeting revealed that Xcel blocked a Minneapolis solar project by charging excessive interconnection fees. But it is just one key incident within a larger news story of the time. 

For reference, the video of the 2023 Q4 Clean Energy Partnership meeting linked in the text below and here was the middle of 3 video recordings total. 

Part 1 of the partnership meeting is here.

Part 3 of the partnership meeting is here.



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Xcel proposes to cut fair pay for Community Solar; violating contracts

Xcel Energy is once again proposing massive cuts in fair pay for community solar which is a foothold communities have against a future corporate monopoly of renewables. 

It is very disturbing that the MN Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is even considering such a clawback rate change proposal that would allow Xcel to unilaterally renege on their agreements and force thousands of Minnesotans who were promised lower bills by signing 25-year community solar contracts to have to pay hundreds of dollars more per year. 

 Specifically, in docket #13-867, Xcel is wanting to change the bill credit rate that subscribers to Community Solar Garden projects built from 2014 to 2018 from the Applicable Retail Rate (ARR) to the 2017 Value of Solar (VOS). There is no need to get into the technicalities of the ARR and the VOS to take a stand here because the implications are simple.

  • If the MN PUC rules in favor of Xcel, then subscribers to these early community solar projects built would face a 31%-35% drop in the bill credit Xcel is required to pay them. For example, as a subscriber to the Cooperative Energy Futures Ramp A project, I currently get a bill credit of $0.17252 per kWh. Switching to the 2017 VOS would lower that bill credit to $0.1185 per kWh which would cause subscribers like myself to pay around an extra a dollar a day for electricity or around $350 per year. 
  • This radical and dangerous proposal is a violation of contracts and is arguably illegal. For Xcel to reverse the compensation method that they have committed to paying these early Community Solar subscribers is changing the terms of a signed 25-year contract after the fact. All parties to the deals were relying on the ARR staying in place as the measure for credits for the 25 year length of contract. It would be a breach of trust that would no doubt have a ripple effect that chills trust in state and utility action across the board. Trust in both are fragile and precious. 

Xcel also tried to gut fair pay for community solar back in 2016, prompting Community Power to organize a street theater demonstration in front of Xcel's HQ and release this short video with the same title. In 2015, Community Power and Partners also organized our "Slow Walk" street theater action outside Xcel's corporate offices. Because Xcel could not legally slow-walk the approval of community solar applications, their next move in 2016 was to try to shrink their financial incentives to shrink the market for their competition. 



Here is a short summary of the additional reasons to be strongly against switching the bill credit rate for subscribers to early community solar gardens from the Applicable Retail Rate to the 2017 Value of Solar rate, as Xcel Energy has proposed in docket 13-867:   

  1. A 31%-35% drop in what Xcel pays as a utility bill credit will disproportionately harm the low to moderate-income residents as well as many cities, churches and schools who are trying to do the right thing. 
  2. Confiscating these financial benefits would unfairly penalize community solar providers who are committed to breaking down barriers for ordinary Minnesotans to participate in the clean energy economy and give preference to Xcel's corporate structure.
  3. It would tarnish Minnesota’s reputation as a reliable state for solar investment and harm the future of solar development statewide if the MN PUC grants Xcel permission to retroactively renege on contracts.
  4. Minnesota's nation-leading community solar program was already reformed to become more equitable and accessible in 2023. We need to give it a chance. 
  5. We have every reason to be skeptical when a utility lobbyist tries to undermine community solar. Similar investor-owned utilities have admitted (on the witness stand!) that their motive to fight consumer-owned solar was actually about prioritizing shareholder profits, rather than some altruistic effort to lower customer’s electric bills.
  6. Contrary to what Xcel lobbyists typically tell the PUC or the state legislature, the cost of electricity from community solar is actually quite similar to utility scale solar. Community solar delivers numerous benefits relative to utility scale solar and it is dishonest to spin a public narrative that only considers costs and does not take these benefits into account. 

To avoid confusion, one extra detail worth explaining about the VOS is that it is a complex calculation that changes each year. Currently, the VOS is around $19.09 cents per kWh. It is far higher than it was from 2017. A big reason why the 2017 VOS is outdated is that it was using the Minnesota state numbers for the social cost of carbon. The new 100% renewable electricity by 2040 law has a requirement that the state social cost of carbon has to match the federal social cost of carbon. 

See further explanations for these 6 reasons, by clicking below: 

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A Thank You to the League of Women Voters

The League of Women Voters has done the work that is vital to our democracy in helping community members to get to know their candidates and hear them discuss their positions on local issues, receiving praise from the StarTribune.

LWV organized high quality non-partisan candidate forums in all contested city council elections in Minneapolis. All 14 forums were held in front of a live audience, live-streamed and recorded for future viewing and seen by over 10,000 people. Community Power partnered with LWV Minneapolis to provide local energy & climate related questions and to help spread the word of the forums.


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