Thu February 24, 2011
Solar Energy

Rally Planned to Protest Xcel Energy’s Proposed Solar Cuts

Xcel Energy is taking heat from the state's solar industry after last week's announcement that it plans to drastically cut back on a popular rebate program for consumers.

The Solar Rewards program, which began in 2006, provides rebates and renewable energy credits to customers who install small solar arrays on their property.  But last week, Xcel Energy stunned many in the industry when it announced that it wants to slash those incentives from $2.35 per watt to 25 cents per watt. 

“What they’re proposing would be devastating to the solar industry in Colorado,” says Dave Rich, who owns Boulder-based Astralux Solar.  “They’re asking to reduce the state-mandated rebate of $2.00 a watt by 88 percent.”

Rich, along with many others in the industry, believes those rebates and other incentives have been crucial to the growth of solar energy production in the state.  Xcel Energy says smaller subsidies are warranted because the market for solar arrays has grown and costs have come down. 

But Rich says the abrupt halting of the Solar Rewards program is having a devastating impact already; and if the plan is approved, 2,500 to 3,000 jobs in Colorado could be lost. 

Xcel's plan must first be approved by state utility regulators, and public comment is being taken before an initial hearing next week.  Solar companies and renewable energy advocates plan to rally against the cuts Friday at noon outside the state capitol.

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