On and off Colorado’s been one of the best states for solar power. The Solar Energy Industries Association ranked it 10th in its 2013 Top Ten Solar States and Solar Power Rocks rated it fifth in its ratings. While the state has a great solar resource and one of the nation’s best renewable energy portfolio standards its suffered from a boom-bust solar industry cycle created as incentives for solar quickly dry up.
Over the past few years the utilities commission has been largely putting Band-Aids on the existing policy, causing protests from solar advocates as Xcel tries to reduce incentive programs offered to residents and small businesses. But now it appears it’s offering some more stability to the SolarRewards program, which should help end the boom-bust cycle—for at least the next two years.
In Colorado people have been quick to adopt solar when they can, exhausting funds set aside by utilities to support customer-generated solar power. The state’s biggest utility, Xcel Energy has been trying to reduce its SolarRewards program as prices for solar panels drop and more people have gone solar. Together these have created a sort of boom-bust cycle for solar installers and customers in the state.
Most recently it wanted to reduce the 2 cent per kilowatt hour incentive it’s currently giving for new residential installations to a fraction of a cent—over time. However the utility commission, with influence from the state energy office, has maintained stronger residential solar incentives and kept the incentive at 2 cents per kilowatt hour.
Under the newly approved plan Xcel Energy will support at least 42 megawatts of community and residential solar in 2015 and another 42 megawatts in 2016, according to The Denver Post.
"We are very encouraged that this gives the industry a chance to plan for the future,"Rebecca Cantwell, executive director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association, told the newspaper. The new plan, the industry has said, will help get it off the ‘solar coaster’.
Under the 42 megawatt allocations, 24 megawatts are dedicated to rooftop installations smaller than 25 kilowatts—most homes have rooftop solar installations under 10 kilowatts. During the two-year period this will support installations on more than 8,500 homes in the state, according to the utilities commission. In addition, 12 megawatts annually will be reserved for solar projects between 25 and 500 kilowatts. The new plan also called for 6.5 to 30 megawatts of community solar gardens.
Xcel had wanted to file for just one year of incentives to cover 42.5 megawatts of new solar, according to the newspaper but the utility commission increased it to two years. In addition, commissioners also said they supported a solar incentive plan that has a longer term because it helps provide stability to solar industry, which employed roughly 3,600 people in 2013.Tweet