Settlement reached to continue Solar Rewards

DENVER – Xcel Energy Inc. and solar industry representatives have agreed to a settlement that would extend the company’s Colorado small-residential Solar Rewards program, and would reopen the medium-size solar programs until a final plan is approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Xcel Energy, the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association have jointly proposed up to 27 megawatts of solar capacity under the settlement. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission must approve the proposal, which would be in effect until the 2014 Renewable Energy Standard Compliance Plan is approved.

The new targets would include up to four megawatts per month for up to 20 megawatts for small solar installations of up to 25 kilowatts; and up to seven megawatts for medium-size solar installations of 25 to 500 kilowatts. The medium-size, or commercial program, has been closed since October 2013, when capacity was filled for the program.

“Xcel Energy believes it is very important to keep the Solar Rewards program going for our Colorado customers, while we work through various policy issues with the solar industry and other parties,´ said David Eves, president and chief executive of Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel Energy company.
“This agreement will allow our home-grown solar companies to keep meeting that demand,´ said Rebecca Cantwell, executive director of COSEIA. “It’s hard on solar companies to have a program that stops and starts, and this will hopefully ensure a smoother business climate.”

Solar Rewards is an Xcel Energy program that offers customers incentives to install solar panel electric systems on their homes and businesses. Without commission approval to extend the program, incentives for installations would be suspended once current levels of the program were filled.

Incentive levels in the small program will be 3 cents per kilowatt-hour for customer-owned installations and 1 cent per kilowatt-hour for third-party owned installations.

The medium program will be restarted to offer incentives for solar arrays between 25 kilowatts and 500 kilowatts.

Incentives for the medium program will be 6 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 6 megawatts of capacity and 5 cents per kilowatt-hour for the final megawatt of capacity; and

The parties also agree that if any part of the Solar Rewards program approved in the 2014 RES Compliance Plan is nearly exhausted, they will meet to discuss potential resolution of issues.

A similar settlement was reached by parties in April 2013, which extended the program through 2013 and into this year. The settlement announced Tuesday does not address issues related to PUC proceedings that were separated out earlier this year, related to net metering.
Solar Rewards is funded through a rider on all Xcel Energy customer bills, totaling up to 2 percent of each total monthly electric bill. Colorado voters approved a state Renewable Energy Standard in 2004 – the first of its kind in the nation – which paved the way for support of customer-sited solar installations. The RES has since been amended and twice increased by the Colorado General Assembly.

Rooftop solar is very popular with Xcel Energy’s Colorado customers. Currently there are nearly 20,000 installations statewide. Installations achieved record levels in 2013, with more than 5,000 new residential systems and a 64 percent growth in residential-sited facilities, compared with 2012.

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