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Xcel Drops Upfront Solar Rebate in Colorado Nearly 50%

September 21 2011 - 2:52:10:pm by Greg

Today Xcel Energy notified Colorado solar PV installers in a email that it had again slashed the upfront cash rebate price of its customer owned Solar Rewards rebate from $1.75/watt (a maximum of $17,500 per household meter) to $1.00/watt (a maximum of $10,000 per household meter.)  Many in Colorado's solar industry can remember not too long ago when Xcel was offering an upfront standard solar rebate of $4.50/watt (a maximum of $45,000 per household meter) for a residential solar electric system.  While Colorado's most profitable oil and gas industry continues to receive over $300 million per year in Colorado subsidies, Xcel has cut its upfront solar subsidies by nearly a factor of 4.5 for Colorado homeowners and the local solar industry is crashing.  

In 2010 it was said that Colorado solar installers had successfully reached the lowest installed cost for residential solar PV systems in the United States.  However, with razor thin profits and cash flow issues due Xcel's standard delay of up to 6 weeks after project completion to issue solar rebate monies, many solar installers have been facing difficult times.  This most recent rebate reduction by Xcel is likely to mean the end for several of the Colorado solar companies that are still standing and the jobs they have created over the past 6 years.  The unfortunate part is that for Xcel this is just the beginning. Xcel Energy has plans for even more drastic rebate cuts for its Colorado ratepayers in the months and years ahead...   The Minnesota based, Xcel Energy has made it clear that it has little if any regard for maintaining a sustainable local solar industry in Colorado.  Since the passage of Amendment 37 in 2004, Xcel was placed in charge of overseeing solar rebates and given the power to make unilateral changes to the solar program as it felt necessary. This power granted to Xcel has led to numerous examples of mismanagement of the solar rebate monies collected from Colorado rate payers, and successful brought a majority of Colorado solar installation companies to their knees.  Xcel has been working diligently to unwind Amendment 37 since its passage and cease competition from what was a rapidly growing local solar industry in Colorado.   The problem is that every time a local Colorado solar company installers a solar electric system for a Colorado homeowner in Xcel territory, they take away a paying electric customer from Xcel.   This concept does not make sense for Xcel’s future profitability model, and has left Xcel in a very conflicted position as it is responsible for managing the solar rebate monies it collects every month from its ratepayers which should be earmarked to promote solar for Colorado homeowners and create a sustainable solar industry in Colorado.  Unfortunately, Xcel understands this game very well and has paid very large sums of ratepayer monies to lobbyists and lawyers to effectively influence Colorado election campaigns and pass the legislation needed to silently destroy Colorado's local solar industry. Xcel has been extremely successful using their political power and virtually unlimited political funds in recent years to author legislation which undermines the original intent of Amendment 37 (the law that planted the seed for Colorado's solar industry.)  Earlier this spring with little warning Xcel Energy even went as far as to pull the Colorado Solar Rewards program offline completely,   this abrupt action led to many of Colorado's already struggling  solar installers (already struggling with drastic Xcel rebate cuts and protocol,) to go out of business or to move to viable solar markets outside of Colorado.   Xcel's irresponsible actions have already resulted in the loss of hundreds if not thousands of local solar jobs in Colorado.

It seems that Xcel's strategy is now to push rebate monies paid by homeowners and originally intended to create a sustainable solar industry in Colorado, into massive solar farms with thousands of solar panels to be installed outside of Denver under the "Solar Gardens" legislation Xcel helped Colorado to author and pass last year.  It is our belief that Xcel Energy now intends to take advantage of lower solar panel costs and begin installing very large centralized solar power stations that Xcel will own and operate. Xcel will likely hire large multi-billion dollar companies to design and install these massive solar farms using heavy machinery and reducing the need to provide solar jobs to any Colorado workers.  This strategy will enable Xcel to more easily control and disguise the real costs for renewable energy and begin charging Colorado homeowners a monthly premium for solar generated electricity similar to their wind source program.   For the past months Xcel has worked with its 3 friends who make up the Colorado Public Utility Commission (CPUC) to design the Solar Gardens rules to suite Xcel specific needs.  With the installation of these mega "solar farm" installations owned by Xcel (who is sure to exploit all available solar local and Federal solar incentives and rebates,) they will work to grow these projects until they reach what they will argue is maximum solar capacity for their electrical grid.  This will enable Xcel to continue to own nearly all of the solar generation on its grid, and prohibit future homeowners from installing solar power in Colorado under the excuse that Xcel's electrical grid is unable to integrate any additional solar capacity.  

Adobe Solar has been very conservative over the past few years and did not rapidly expand its operations to take on the large brief inflows of business while Xcel held residential rebates at a sustainable level.  We are doing our best to continue reducing costs for our consumers in every way possible, but recent times are not easy and like most other solar installation companies servicing the Denver metro area we have also been forced to downsize to maintain profitability.  We also work hard to continue fighting for Colorado legislation to promote a local solar industry in Colorado, but with limited resources Xcel along with Colorado's powerful oil and gas industries make an nearly insurmountable competitor for passing the legislation needed to pull solar rebates out of the hands of Colorado utilities and into the hands of those who wish to use Colorado ratepayer monies to create a viable solar industry and a clean Colorado for our children.  

With the recent reductions in solar panel prices and continued Xcel Solar Rewards rebate drops looming there will likely never be a better time to go solar in Colorado than now.  Adobe Solar would love to help you to design and install the best solar panel system possible for your home in the Denver, Golden, Boulder, Lakewood, Highlands Ranch or anywhere else along the Front Range.  Adobe Solar provides free solar site assessments and will be able to design a solar solution to fit your specific electrical needs.  With no moving parts and a 25-year manufacturer warranty on all major solar PV components we install, combined with 24-hour online performance monitoring of every solar panel in your system, we are confident that your solar panel system will stand the test of time and help power your home for the next 30+ years. Please support our locally owned small Colorado solar integration businesses to stand strong through these difficult times...   If you are interested in hedging your energy costs and controlling your energy future, Adobe Solar is happy to help!






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