Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Colorado Solar Rebates to Be Reinstated March 23

Excel’s Solar*Rewards program will be reinstated March 23, with a reduced up-front rebate and an extended performance-based renewable energy credit. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved the new version of the program March 18. It’s based on a compromise agreement among the stakeholders, giving the solar industry some predictability and addressing some of the program’s cash-flow and debt issues.

The Public Utilities Commission heard a full day of testimony, mostly supporting the agreement. After deliberating, the three PUC members agreed to the settlement “with reservations.”

This has been a long, dry period for solar sales in Colorado. On February 16, Xcel Energy abruptly halted the successful Solar*Rewards program. At that time, Xcel proposed dropping the rebate from $2.00 per watt of installed solar power to $0.25 per watt. Xcel shut down the rebate program to await a decision by the PUC.

In response to Xcel’s move, The Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association filed a request that Xcel reinstate the Solar*Rewards Program immediately.

“COSEIA believes such conduct evinces bad faith and a breach of the public trust in the administration of the Solar*Rewards program and may be in violation of the statutory prohibition against discrimination,” COSEIA’s attorney claimed. “By taking the extraordinary step of closing its Solar*Rewards program to new applications, the company has brought the market for small (less than 100 kW) residential and commercial solar installations to a dead standstill.”

Xcel claimed that the Solar*Rewards program was too successful. The solar industry had far exceeded the expectations of the Xcel Solar*Rewards program management. Because the program is funded by a 2 percent charge to Xcel customers, the rate of rebate applications exceeded the available funding, so Xcel needed to borrow to pay the rebates.

The solar industry challenged what the perceived as a punitive move.

”Rather than rewarding the solar industry for its ability to install more solar projects at decreasing incentive rates, however, PSCo’s (XCEL) approach is to punish the industry for its success.”

In a March 4 PUC hearing, the commissioners instructed stakeholders to try and work out a compromise.

The compromise reinstates the Solar*Rewards program with an up-front rebate of $1.75 paid per watt, and $0.04 per kWh paid over 10 years.

This will ratchet down quite rapidly to performance-based incentives, meaning the price per kWh will increase as the upfront rebate drops from $1.75 to $1.00 to $0.50 to $0.00.

During public comments Dr. Schechter, of the Colorado Office of Consumer Affairs, said the proposed agreement was, ”in the public’s best interest.”

Johnathon Koehn, regional sustainability coordinator for Boulder, said he was concerned about the process, specifically Xcel’s abrupt curtailment of the rebate program.

“The customer and the citizen perceive that there has been a loss of credibility in the rewards program,” Koehn said. “The movement to performance-based REC payments will make solar installation only for the rich, and make solar installers become financiers.”

SOURCE:  http://summitcountyvoice.com/2011/03/19/colorado-xcels-solar-rebate-program-is-back/

No comments: