DENVER, Nov. 17, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The Colorado Energy Office (CEO), Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC), and GRID Alternatives Colorado today recognize the adoption of strong consumer protections and program offerings to bring equity and access of renewable energy to low-income customers served by Xcel Energy. Last week, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the Xcel Energy utility settlement, which establishes the most comprehensive low-income solar access in the country. The milestone agreement creates a market environment in which utilities address customers most in need without deviating from renewable energy goals; developers realize business goals while serving a new customer segment; and low-income customers receive a reduction in energy expenditures which can be utilized for other basic necessities. "The Xcel Energy settlement is a momentous step forward for our state's low-income energy consumers, and we're proud to have been a part of it," said Skip Arnold, Executive Director of Energy Outreach Colorado. "Many diverse organizations and parties came together to seek a common solution for delivering affordable energy for Coloradans, particularly those most vulnerable." As the state's leading advocate for Colorado's low-income energy consumers, EOC ensured low-income customers would not be adversely affected by time-of-use rates that adjust electricity rates based on low- and high-demand periods. These efforts include hold harmless clauses for low-income households and the removal of grid charges which have a disproportionately negative impact on low-income customers. The inclusion of these concessions paved the way for the adoption of new and innovative avenues for low-income customers to access renewable energy. Under the settlement, Xcel Energy will add up to 342 megawatts (MW) of new solar generation capacity including more than 300MW of community solar projects and up to 225MW of new rooftop solar, all between 2017 and 2019. The settlement resolves long standing equity and access issues for low-income customers who have contributed to solar energy rebate pools but have not had navigable pathways to participate in these programs. This success has been largely built on innovative policy models developed uniquely in Colorado. "CEO's work in policy development and low-income solar demonstration projects were a precursor to the settlement," said Jeff Ackermann, Director of the Colorado Energy Office. "These policy developments and the resulting program offerings exponentially increase the availability of affordable low-income solar in Colorado, from under 2MW to more than 20MW, and this can be a model for other utilities nationally." CEO is recognized as a national leader in developing holistic approaches to reduce household energy burden. These approaches ensure low-income customers, through the adoption of energy efficiency measures and connection to solar, see reductions in energy expenditures for both home heating and electric use.