Last month news of Xcel Energy’s decision to cut the Solar*Rewards rebate (which was first offered five years ago) for solar installations rocked the industry. A former co-worker informed me that he and his wife had planned on installing a photovoltaic array on their roof in a Denver suburb. However, the reduction in rebates made the installation uneconomical in the short term, despite the reduction in utility bills, the increased home value, and protection against the potential of rising electricity costs.
The recent cuts threaten to cause cutbacks in the job force. Last Friday Denver Business Journal reported that the “Colorado Public Utilities Commission gave its approval Friday to a settlement worked by Xcel Energy Inc. and representatives of solar power companies to restart the utilityâ€™s rebate program that helps pay for small solar-power systems at homes and businesses.” The settlement “calls for Xcel to pay out $97.3 million in rebates for 60 megawatts worth of solar power systems, in addition to the 43 megawatts the utility already has approved.” Payments will start at $1.75 per watt, which is lower than previous rebate levels. However, the agreement stipulates that Xcel also pay 4 cents per watt of electricity produced over the first ten years. Eventually the $1.75 rebate will end and Xcel will pay 14 cents per watt of electricity generated.