Colorado Springs Council Shelves Solar Expansion

April 24, 2013

In one of its first actions, the new Colorado Springs City Council yesterday shelved an expansion of a solar energy program. And, as KRCC’s Liz Ruskin reports, a new practice by Council President Keith King signaled what the outcome would be.

The former council voted two weeks ago to expand the city’s community solar gardens, a Utilities program that subsidizes solar development and would have eventually added some 24 cents to the average household’s monthly bill. Councilwoman Jan Martin says it took months to work out the terms, and she agrees with solar advocates who say it would’ve created jobs.

"It’s a little frustrating and difficult to think that within one meeting that the new council has the knowledge to even consider overturning this at this point."

King and other new council members object to the cost of the solar subsidy: an estimated $22 million, over 20 years. King says it would hurt large industrial customers.

"It’s very critical that we have an opportunity to create primary jobs in this community. We have an opportunity to be able to have an opportunity for us to say we’re open for business for all types of industry, and if we start raising our rates I think we lose that opportunity to do so."

Before the meeting, King says he spoke to each councilmember about the solar reversal and got seven of the nine to agree to call themselves sponsors. That’s a process borrowed from his days in the state Legislature, and King says it’ll encourage collaboration among Council members. Martin and Councilman Val Snider say it makes it look like the votes are in from the start.

King, though, says sponsorship doesn’t equal votes. Council voted 5-to-4 to derail the project. That delays consideration of the expansion until at least August and, advocates say, effectively kills it.