Why Xcel Says Its Going Dark on Incentives for Solar Panels

February 2011

Just last week, hundreds of business owners descended upon Loveland for the Solar Power Colorado conference to discuss emerging market trends, policies, and new ways to boost solar's stature in the state's economy (via the Reporter-Herald). Now, many of those employers, along with renewable energy advocates and environmentalists, are reeling from Xcel Energy's decision to cut financial incentives for its Colorado customers who want to install solar panels, reports the Denver Post. Moreover, Xcel, the state's largest energy utility, wants state regulators to approve deeper cuts in the subsidy program, which aims to curb pollution.

Neal Laurie, executive director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association, calls Xcel's plan "absolutely devastating," adding that "no industry can survive this kind of shock." The industry has grown more than tenfold, to 5,300 workers, since the incentives started about five years ago. That's part of why Xcel is pulling the plug, saying the program has just about run its course as the technology becomes more affordable: "As the cost of on-site solar drops, we need to be able to adjust the incentives accordingly" (via 7News). But that doesn't make sense to critics like Blake Jones, president and CEO of Namaste Solar in Boulder, who says the cuts will "effectively kill Colorado's solar market... This is our worst nightmare come true" (via the Daily Camera).

Meanwhile, the state House approved a bill earlier this week that would authorize the Public Utilities Commission to consider hydroelectric power as a renewable energy source, writes the Pueblo Chieftain.