Today I attended the public utilities comission (PUC) meeting to discuss the solar electric rebates in Colorado. This meeting comes after the major utility in Colorado handed a sucker punch to the solar industry that is likely to take out a majority of the companies. The sucker punch came on 2/16/11, when Xcel announced that they are effectively eliminating the solar rewards program. This program, which was spawned from the voter approved renewable energy standard amendment 37, was responsible for huge growth in the solar electric industry in Colorado. But now the party is over.
For a moment, the PUC seemed to possibly try to keep an interim rebate going until they can make a decision on whether or not Xcel can do what they are doing. In the end, they decided to allow the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) to mediate for the counsel of the biggest parties interested; CoSEIA and a representative for ‘two large solar companies’ as stated by the representative, and Xcel. They parties will then hopefully come to the next PUC meeting on March 11th with an agreement to move forward. If not, the PUC can will propose a remedy of their own.
One big question is whether the PUC has any authority to tell Xcel what to do. Based on my understanding of the rules (I am not pretending to be Counsel by any means) for the amendment, Xcel is sticking to the letter of the law and has reached their quotas. In fact, they have gone way over their quotas. They are also spending the maximum 2% allowed to fund the program and have overspent in 2010 and will also overspend in 2011 based on current approved rebates.
Most of this may well be moot since the program is not accepting anymore applications until the issue is resolved. I doubt that a majority of the smaller programs will be able to wait and will be forced to close. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of them move to Montana where the solar industry is heating up.
I wish the best to all of us!