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Aurora man fights for legislation after losing $20,000 on solar panels

DENVER -- Aurora resident Matt Smola had a mission Wednesday -- get some answers from lawmakers over why he can't use his solar panel equipment.

"I probably have $22,000 into this right now," Smola said.

Two years ago, Smola purchased solar panel and battery equipment from OutBack but said he has constantly encountered resistance from Xcel Energy over getting it turned on.

"I never thought in a million years there would be any problem with Xcel," Smola said.

On Wednesday Smola found himself at the State Capitol lobbying for a bill that would increase homeowners' rights if they chose to install batteries or solar panels on their own.

"This is about Matt's story," State Sen. Steve Fenberg said. "A regulated monopoly shouldn't be able to dictate what happens in an individuals private home."

Debate on the measure lasted throughout the afternoon in front of the Senate Business Committee with Xcel lobbying against it.

"There are certainly standards that you have to meet for safety and reliability that protects both the customer and anyone who might be receiving his power outside and onto the grid," said Mark Stutz, an Xcel spokesman.

Stutz said Xcel has repeatedly tried to work with Smola but have not been able to come to a compromise.

After three hours of debate, the bill was killed in committee.