PUC restarts Solar Rewards program in Colorado

After long days of negotiations, Xcel Energy has finally agreed to restart its Solar*Rewards program as early as next week, pending PUC approval this Friday, March 18th. The negotiated agreement had to address three primary goals:
– Provide greater predictability and stability for solar businesses and customers
– Address the program cash flow challenges
– Reduce the program’s nearly $100 million debt load
All three goals have been met and COSEIA, along with coalition partners, was able to negotiate the up-front incentive payment to$1.75/watt + $0.04/kWh performance-based incentive over 10 years for the small customer-owned category (Xcel was proposing $0.25/watt + $1/REC).
Third-party owned and mid-sized programs will move immediately to a performance-based incentive (PBI), paid over a 20 year period:
– Small third-party owned systems $0.16/kWh PBI
– Mid-sized systems $0.15/kWh PBI
As with before, all incentives will ratchet down over time based on capacity installed to help balance the program budget.
Xcel’s proposed 10 MW of additional capacity was also negotiated up to60 MW over the next year when Xcel’s 2012 RES Compliance Plan is implemented. The negotiated restart of the program will be March 2011.
The shift from up-front incentives to performance-based incentives will not be easy one, but is necessary to address the cash flow crunch and avoid another shut down of the program. Shifting to PBI’s paid out over a 10 year time frame for the customer-owned category is easier to finance and will give businesses time to establish financing arrangements.
The agreement also includes language that prohibits Xcel from taking unilateral action without PUC approval — and of course we, as an industry, need to do our part to live within our program’s means. Funding is not unlimited.
Xcel’s actions have come at a significant cost and we’re going to continue to do everything possible to promote a more stable marketplace during these challenging times. 


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