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Study Will Explore New, Green-Friendly Business Models for Utilities

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

As state utility regulators are deciding whether to allow Xcel Energy to drastically cut a rebate program for homeowners who install rooftop solar panels, a new project aims to study how renewable energy and conservation can be made more financially appealing to utility companies. 

If more utility companies had a financial stake in promoting rooftop solar panels and energy conservation efforts, they could lead the charge for creating thousands of clean energy jobs.  That’s the idea behind a new collaboration between Colorado State University and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Boulder. 

Thomas Bradley is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at CSU, and one of the project’s leaders.  He says because most utilities in the U.S.  are paid per unit of electricity sold, there’s no real financial incentive for them to conserve. 

Researchers on the project plan to work closely with utility companies to develop new business and regulatory models that are sustainable and market-driven.  Solutions could also help utilities comply with Colorado’s renewable energy standard, which requires large utilities to generate 30 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. 

The study received a grant from the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis, which studies energy issues in the context of policy, finance and markets.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.