On March 4, 2011, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission told Xcel Energy Inc. and the state’s solar power industry to work out an agreement on rebates for small-scale solar power systems at homes and businesses, which Xcel is trying to reduce. The two sides were given a seven-day deadline.
The commissioners, during a three-hour hearing, said they’d consider approving a settlement, if one is reached, on March 11. If no agreement is reached by then, the commissioners said Friday they may take steps to resurrect Xcel’s Solar*Rewards rebate program in some form on a temporary basis until long-term decisions can be made.
The battle between Minneapolis-based Xcel and the companies that install small-scale solar power systems in the utility’s Colorado service territory started Feb. 16.
That’s when the utility abruptly cut rebate levels for the solar power systems from $2.35 per watt to $2.01 per watt. The utility closed the program to new applications the following day, meaning new solar power systems sold after Feb. 17 are not eligible for a Solar*Rewards rebate until Xcel reopens the program.
The Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (CoSEIA) says solar power sales virtually halted when Xcel shut down its rebate program and layoffs are looming for many companies in the industry.
“We’re happy to come to the table with the solar industry to try to reach an agreement,” said Michelle Aguayo, a spokeswoman for Xcel. “It’s always been our goal to get this program restarted in a form that is fair and equitable.”
Xcel has asked the PUC to cut the rebate levels to $1.25 per watt. CoSEIA wants the commission to keep rebates flowing — at some level — until commissioners make a decision to approve or deny Xcel’s request.
“The PUC is moving very quickly on this issue, reinforcing the fact that they see the need to get this resolved before there’s any more economic damage to this industry,” said Neal Lurie, CoSEIA’s executive director.
Money for Xcel’s Solar*Rewards rebate program comes from a 2 percent surcharge on the monthly bills of the utility’s 1.3 million Colorado customers.
Source: Denver Business Journal