DENVER (AP) — Xcel Energy Inc. and two solar industry groups have made a joint proposal to Colorado utility regulators on incentives that encourage customers to put panels on their roofs, they said Tuesday.
In announcing their agreement a day before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission opens hearing on Xcel's renewable-energy policy plan, they made clear the contentious issue of net metering remains unresolved.
Xcel, the Solar Industries Association and the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association called in their agreement for the commission to approve 3 cents per kilowatt-hour of Solar Rewards for customer-owned installations of up to 25 kilowatts, and 1 cent per kilowatt-hour for small installations owned by parties other than the homeowner, keeping the program active pending approval of the overall renewable energy plan.
They also proposed restarting a medium program for solar arrays of between 25 and 500 kilowatts that had been closed since October 2013, when that program's capacity was reached. For the medium program, incentives were proposed of 6 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 6 megawatts and 5 cents for the final megawatt.
Terry Bote, spokesman for the utility commission, said the commission will set a shortened notice period of 10 days on the agreement at a meeting Wednesday. If the commission decides to shorten the notice period and hears no opposition to the proposed settlement, commissioners could consider the merits of the settlement at a weekly meeting later this month, Bote said.
The agreement will ensure the market is not disrupted, good news for solar companies like California-based Sunrun, said Susan Glick, Sunrun's senior manager for public policy. But she made a clear distinction between the Solar Rewards incentives and net metering.
"Net metering is not an incentive. It is a billing mechanism," she said.
Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz told The Associated Press the Solar Rewards agreement "does show that there are issues that we can agree on." But Stutz said Xcel still had concerns about net metering, which allows homeowners with rooftop solar arrays to, in addition to Solar Rewards, get credit for the energy they put back into the grid to be sold to others.
The commission earlier this year separated a discussion of net metering from the overall review after Xcel proposed taking steps to inform consumers what part of the net-metering credit reflects the value of the energy produced and what part should be seen as a subsidy. Solar proponents have objected, saying they believe Xcel is laying a foundation for changes to net metering that could hurt the solar power industry.
Utility companies have been challenging net metering around the country.