State PUC OKs expanded solar incentives program

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved an expansion of a popular solar energy incentive program on Wednesday.

The expansion, the product of a compromise worked out between the solar energy industry in the state and Xcel Energy, will open the door for more residential solar electric systems over the next two years.

The expansion of Xcel’s Solar Rewards program would help as many as 2,000 homes install new solar panels and let the utility count up to 9.6 megawatts of power toward their 30 percent renewable energy standard, which it must meet by 2020.

“This decision by the PUC will help Coloradans who want to go solar, and it will help solar companies to expand their businesses,” said Eddie Stern, executive director of the Colorado chapter of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “This will sustain Colorado jobs and continue the growth of a secure and sustainable source of domestic energy.”

The program, created when voters approved the standard in 2004, was designed to spur the solar energy market.

But when Xcel started to suspend the program in 2011, the solar energy industry said it resulted in a loss of nearly 600 jobs statewide.

The program, a mix of tax credits and power buy-back agreements, was designed to cover half the cost of installing solar systems, but Xcel at the time complained it was bearing as much as 75 percent of the costs because of rising installation prices and lower costs for solar systems.

The settlement allows Xcel to pay rebates over time, rather than when systems are installed, and reduces rebates it must pay based on how large a system is installed.


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