3:43pm

Fri March 4, 2011
Business

PUC Delays Action on Xcel Solar Rebate Flap

State utility regulators have denied a request by Colorado solar companies that seeks to force Xcel Energy to reinstate a popular solar rebate program that the utility abruptly halted last month.   The Public Utilities Commission Friday instead ordered both sides in the case to try and broker a settlement in the next week.

Citing a precipitous drop in the costs of solar panels, Xcel Energy stopped taking new applications for its Solar Rewards Program last month, while it seeks permission from utility regulators to dramatically lower rebates for homeowners wanting to go solar. 

During a nearly three hour hearing before the PUC, an attorney for the company argued that Xcel and its rate-payers are now shouldering the bulk of the costs of the rebates. 

But attorneys for solar companies argued that unilateral action has all but frozen their market, and many companies are laying workers off.  Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association Executive Director Neal Lurie says he’s hopeful a settlement can be reached in the next week. 

"But what I think is most important is that we’re able to stabilize the market as quickly as possible before any more economic damage is done as a result of Xcel’s actions," Lurie said after the hearing.

The PUC will take up the matter again at a meeting a week from today.  Meantime the Governor’s Energy Office has agreed to help try and broker a settlement between the industry and Xcel.