SolarCity (SCTY), one of the two biggest rooftop solar installers in the country, is now fighting soft costs one utility at a time. Its current nemesis is the Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo), a subsidiary of Xcel Energy (XEL).
“From an administrative standpoint, the Xcel Energy Solar*Rewards program is the most complex of the programs that SolarCity works with,” said Interconnection Director Laura Hannah. “It is also by far the slowest of the utilities that have comparable volumes.”
Among the most costly of soft costs are the expenses incurred by solar installers due to time-consuming interconnection processes imposed by utilities.
Solar Freedom Now is fighting soft costs at the federal level with a movement of solar advocates pushing Congress to create a national installation standard. Clean Power Finance is fighting soft costs at the jurisdictional level by building a National Permitting Database with which installers can manage red tape in individual jurisdictions.
“These issues with Xcel need to be discussed publicly despite the possibility of retaliation because [the utility] hasn’t shown any interest in fixing its program,” said SolarCity Policy and Electricity Markets Director Meghan Nutting of her company’s struggle with the utility. “Can they make our lives harder? Yes. But not much. Their program is already that difficult. Hopefully other installers will speak out as well.”
By contrast, Hannah said, Bob Warner got the Pacific Gas and Electric solar program “moving twice as fast and doing what we would love to see every utility do, which is see where their program is unnecessarily burdensome and simplify.”