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Wednesday, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission rejected Xcel Energy’s proposal to cut their energy savings programs by nearly a third from their 2014 level. The PUC also tightened up the rules around bonuses that Xcel can generate from meeting their goals and directed Xcel Energy to develop plans for new energy saving opportunities.
“Since 2009, energy efficiency programs in Colorado by utilities like Xcel have reduced enough energy to power 210,000 homes,” said Danny Katz, Director of the CoPIRG Foundation. “This has saved Coloradans money, reduced pollution and created jobs. We applaud the Public Utilities Commission’s decision to ensure Xcel’s savings goals move forward not backward.”
In 2007, Colorado passed a law requiring Xcel Energy and other for-profit utilities to launch robust energy savings programs that reduce energy waste. Specific annual goals were set by the PUC in 2008 for each year through 2020. The efficiency programs and measures implemented during 2009-2013 are expected to provide $924 million in net economic benefits.
Last year, Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility with 1.4 million customers, asked the PUC to lower their goals by 28% from their 2014 level over the next five years. The PUC rejected this drop in savings and directed Xcel to maintain their current energy savings level through 2020. In addition, the PUC directed Xcel to develop plans for additional savings from what is known as distribution voltage optimization, a process of improving the efficiency at which energy travels from the energy production source to the customer.
Combined, Xcel Energy could nearly double the total savings between 2015-2020 as it has achieved since 2009.
“Energy efficiency is a huge success story for Colorado. Money saved. Pollution avoided. Jobs created. A win-win-win,” said Katz.
Since 2009, energy efficiency in for-profit utilities in Colorado avoided the equivalent pollution of taking 215,000 cars of the road, saved the equivalent of 5,000 homes’ annual use of water and has helped create hundreds of jobs in the energy sector according to an analysis by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP).
In April, a coalition of groups led by CoPIRG dropped off 6,177 petitions and 280 personal letters from Coloradans calling for the PUC to reject Xcel’s proposal. In addition, the coalition dropped off letters from 29 elected officials from Costilla County to New Castle and letters from groups like the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association. Dozens of Coloradans were also inspired to show their support for energy efficiency and send in selfEEs – “selfie” photos of them with energy efficient gadgets.
“Before a utility does anything, they should first maximize cutting energy waste because it is the cheapest way to meet our growing energy needs,” said Katz. “It’s time every utility in the state provided the same kind of energy savings to their customers that we’re seeing from Xcel.”
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