In order to avoid possible disruption to the Solar Rewards program for small-sized solar installations in Colorado, Xcel Energy, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) jointly propose an increase in program capacity for 2013. Solar Rewards encourages the growth of solar energy and offers customers incentives to install solar panels electric systems on their homes and businesses. As part of a compliance plan approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in 2012, 9.6MW of generating capacity were available to Xcel Energy residential customers in Colorado in each of the two years, for systems of up to 10.0kW each, allowing for solar installations on approximately 2,000 homes.

Capacity in the small-sized solar installation program has been fully subscribed. Without commission approval to expand the capacity of this program, incentives for installation of systems of 10.0kW or less electric would be suspended statewide for the remainder of the year, until a new compliance plan is approved for 2014 and beyond.

The company’s Solar Rewards program is funded through a rider on all Xcel Energy customer bills, totaling 2% of each total monthly bill. Colorado voters approved a state Renewable Energy Standard (RES) in 2004, which included provisions for the support of customer-sited solar installations. The RES has since been amended twice by the Colorado General Assembly.

“Coloradans have continued to show interest in on-site solar installations,” said David Eves, president and CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel Energy company. “We believe it is important to keep this program available to the market for the remainder of 2013, by moving forward capacity that was planned for next year. It is also important to continue to reduce our program incentive levels and provide transparency as solar energy costs decline and these installations become more prevalent.”

Xcel Energy, SEIA, and COSEIA continue to work on details for the agreed upon proposal, which will be filed for expedited approval with the CPUC and after consultation with other interested parties. The parties to the agreement look forward to working with statewide stakeholders at the commission on this plan. Initially, however, the settlement would propose to allow additional solar generation capacity to be available to the market in 2013 and the beginning of 2014, with the declining Solar Rewards incentives previously approved by the CPUC, which also would have otherwise been available in 2014 and beyond.

“Colorado’s solar leadership is really something to be proud of,” said Edward Stern, executive director of COSEIA. “Our homes and businesses are going solar in record numbers, and that investment is putting people to work all across the state. This proposal will allow us to keep building on that success by adding enough solar energy to power thousands of homes.”

“We appreciate the willingness of Xcel Energy to work with the solar industry to find a solution,” said Sara Birmingham, director of state affairs at SEIA. “This proposal will help the Colorado solar industry avoid falling off a cliff, and it will allow Coloradans to continue working. In 2012, installed solar capacity grew 76% throughout the nation, and Colorado ranks fifth among states for the most cumulative installed solar capacity. Expanding the Solar Rewards program will allow Colorado to maintain its leadership position within such a rapidly-growing industry.

As noted and with prior Solar Rewards offerings, this proposal will include performance-based incentives, which are reduced in a predictable manner as capacity is filled, for both customer-owned and third-party owned small solar systems.

The Solar Rewards program will continue to accept applications through this process, but the company must wait for commission approval of the settlement agreement before it can begin providing these incentives.