Colorado is full of sunshine and scenic views making it one of the most beautiful places to live in!
Unfortunately residents in Aurora and Centennial don’t have many options when it comes to utility providers. Purchasing solar energy, for Colorado residents, has certain pros and cons with each provider. We are going to discuss some of those differences here.
Xcel is about 113 years old and serves more than 3.7 million electric customers in multiple states. They are the main 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 either working from home or opting for unemployment benefits when possible. Unfortunately, despite the impressive profitability many Xcel customers are facing rate hikes and see the cost of power constantly climbing. In fact, 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”. This equates to more than a 6% rate increase in just April. 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, it seems 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. More on that later.
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. These areas are now served by CORE Electric Cooperative. This MAP shows the service areas that used to be serviced by IREA and are now with CORE. These residents have some perks when it comes to 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, 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. They are participating in Net Metering for solar customers, but only on a month-to-month basis. This allows a customer to oversize the system to produce extra energy during the sunniest summer months, and use the excess to offset the less productive winter months. This is extremely beneficial because you can get much more production out of a smaller system. However, unlike Xcel, CORE has an annual “true-up”.
That means at the end of the year you can’t collect dollar for dollar, what you overproduced.
“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 made some great improvements, the rates are actually still not that impressive.
An average residential customer is paying “13.49 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is 3.92% more than Colorado’s average price of 12.98 cents”, according to Find Energy
The variables mostly come from the actual time of day that you are using the most energy. This is partially because of “on-peak demand charges”, which are defined on the CORE website as,
“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.”
This was implemented to offset the Elimination of the Load Factor Adjustment (LFA), and the Retirement of the Temporary Power Cost Adjustment (PCA). 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, which is a rate of $1.50 per kilowatt (kW) consumed during the “on-peak” period of 4 to 8 p.m. This one is designed to recover costs when members are consuming the most energy.
All of this is supposed to simplify billing, but also give some control to the customers who are willing to use energy at the less expensive times of the day.
“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 when it comes to 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. This means that you can overproduce throughout the entire year, and get paid back at retail price for any extra energy that your system produced, and was 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.