Is Xcel Energy vs. CORE Cooperative a Better fit For Solar Panel Customers In Colorado?
Colorado is full of sunshine and scenic views, making it one of the most beautiful places to live! Behind the science, a battle of the utility giants is going on. However, the early adopters of clean solar energy are the real winners.
Unfortunately, residents of Aurora and Centennial don’t have many options when it comes to utility providers. Purchasing solar energy for Colorado residents has specific pros and cons for each provider. We are going to discuss some of those differences here today.
Xcel Energy is about 113 years old and serves more than 3.7 million electric customers in multiple states. They are the leading provider for most service areas in Colorado, including most of Aurora and Denver.
“Xcel Energy reported $1.6 billion in 2021 profits on $13.4 billion revenue from electricity and natural gas sales across its utility businesses in eight states. That’s 8.4% profit growth compared to the $1.5 billion in profits on $11.5 billion in revenue Xcel Energy reported for 2020.” states The Business Journals.
Not a bad year, especially considering the economic factors, including many employees working from home or opting for unemployment benefits when possible. Unfortunately, despite the impressive profitability, many Xcel customers face rate hikes and see the cost of power constantly climbing. Xcel recently announced new rate hikes that will significantly impact Colorado residents.
According to 9 news, “Xcel customers are expected to see a 37% increase on utility bills this winter”. In addition, customers will endure a 6% rate increase in just April. But, unfortunately, that’s just the beginning.
The Colorado Sun recently reported that “There will be more Xcel Energy electricity rate cases to come”, said Ron Davis, the commission’s chief adviser. “The company will be back in for rate requests in the next 3 or 4 years at the outside.”
At this point, the cost of power is simply not coming down for Colorado residents. But, there are certainly some perks for Xcel customers if you know where to look.
While Xcel is the biggest, they aren’t the only utility provider for Coloradans.
Some parts of Aurora and Centennial used to be served by IREA. CORE Electric Cooperative now serves these areas. This MAP shows the service areas that used to be serviced by IREA and are now with CORE. These residents have some perks regarding power, but not so much for going solar.
IREA started servicing Colorado more than 80 years ago. They rebranded as CORE Electric Cooperative on August 30th, 2021, and Core is still a non-profit, member-owned electric cooperative utility company.
“CORE, formally known as Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA) is a member-owned electric utility cooperative that serves customers in a 5,000-square-mile area in central Colorado. As a customer-owned cooperative, CORE operates on a non-profit basis; earnings exceeding expenses are invested in the facilities used to provide electric service and are booked as member equity.” according to WFMZ-TV 69 News.
CORE has worked hard to make improvements from the prior IREA. For example, they are participating in Net Metering for solar customers, but only monthly. In addition, now, customers can oversize their solar system to produce extra energy during the sunniest summer months and use the excess to offset the less productive winter months. Finally, solar starts making sense because you can get much more production out of a minor system. However, unlike Xcel, CORE has an annual “true-up.”
That means you can’t collect dollar for dollar what you overproduced at the end of the year.
“The energy your interconnected renewable system generates directly offsets energy that CORE provides you on a kilowatt-hour-to-kilowatt-hour basis. If your system generates more energy than you consume, it is delivered to CORE’s distribution system. If, during a monthly billing period, the energy delivered to CORE exceeds the amount of energy delivered to you from CORE, that energy is credited and carried forward to offset use in future months. An annual “true-up” is performed each year within 60 days of the end of the April billing cycle, at which point CORE provides a bill credit or refund for any remaining excess generation accrued at CORE’s avoided cost of power, as calculated by CORE for the previous calendar year.” from the CORE website.
“CORE’s average avoided cost of power as calculated by CORE for the previous calendar year”. This means you will be paid back much less than retail pricing. Still, it’s better than nothing!
Although CORE has significantly improved, the rates are still not that impressive.
According to Find Energy, an average residential customer pays “13.49 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is 3.92% more than Colorado’s average price of 12.98 cents“.
The variables mostly come from the time of day you use the most energy. “On-peak demand charges,” according to CORE’s website, are-
“Introducing a demand rate of $1.50 per kW consumed during the “on-peak” period of 4 to 8 p.m. will allow CORE to more accurately recover the costs associated with maintaining reliable service when our member base is consuming the most energy.”
The CORE aims to offset the Elimination of the Load Factor Adjustment (LFA) and the Retirement of the Temporary Power Cost Adjustment (PCA). In addition, CORE has simplified things by implementing a Three-Part Residential Rate; the three parts are:
- Basic Service Charge, this $13.50 service charge is still below the $20 average service charge per meter served.
- Energy Charge is the charge for total energy consumed over a billing period.
- Demand Charge, a rate of $1.50 per kilowatt (kW) consumed during the “on-peak” period of 4 to 8 p.m. Core can recover costs when members consume the most energy.
TOU is said to simplify billing and give Xcel customers back some control.
“With advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technology in place, members now have much more precise data around their actual peak demand and usage patterns. The three-part rate more fairly allocates demand-based charges and puts control over those costs in members’ hands.” –Jeff Baudier Core CEO
Xcel also has some serious advantages regarding its Net Meter program.
Xcel has recently changed the sizing parameters, now allowing residential customers to install a system up to 200% of the historical consumption. In addition, Xcel customers can overproduce throughout the year and get paid back at retail price for any extra energy that your system produced and distributed to the grid! Cha-ching! Xcel even offers incentives for other energy efficiency upgrades to your home. Check the list of eligible upgrades Here.