Holy Cross Energy reduces size of rebates for solar electricity
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Holy Cross Energy’s board of directors on Wednesday approved a $2 million budget for green programs in 2010, but the utility company will reduce its rebates to customers who install solar electric systems.
Steve Casey, Holy Cross member services and marketing administrator, recommended the board reduce the utility company’s solar rebate from $2 to $1.50 per watt, and reduce the overall allocation from $12,000 to $9,000 per project.
The change won’t have a major effect on homeowners or businesses that install solar electric systems because a new rebate source is available in Colorado this year, Casey said. A program offered by the Governor’s Energy Office, or GEO, offers a rebate of up to $3 per watt, minus what a local utility company offers. So, even though Holy Cross is decreasing its rebate, a consumer could reap more in rebates overall compared to last year because of the new state program.
Casey said Holy Cross started offering rebates in 2004 to help provide a renewable energy incentive for its customers. Now the company’s role is evolving.
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“We have been a driver so far,” Casey said. “Now we’re going to be a supporter.”
Depending on where they live, property owners who install solar electric projects may also be eligible for rebates from the Community Office for Resource Efficiency and Eagle County. Consumers are also benefiting from tumbling prices for solar technology.
Holy Cross was inundated with requests for solar rebates last year. It burned through its rebate budget by the end of May. It gave about $900,000 in rebates to 83 solar electric systems. Another $270,000 in rebates for 2009 projects are pending review to make sure they qualify.
Interest in solar electric projects, also known as solar photovoltaic systems, surged because of a federal tax credit became available and because of the support for renewable energy projects among Holy Cross customers in the Roaring Fork, Eagle and lower Colorado River valleys.
The demand for rebates is “significantly slower” so far this year, probably because discretionary income has dried up because of the recession, Casey said.
Holy Cross Energy allocated $630,000 for rebates for renewable energy projects in 2010. There is a reserve fund that can potentially be tapped if demand surges again, according to Holy Cross Energy CEO Del Worley.
The Holy Cross board voted unanimously, with one absence, to commit 2 percent of its anticipated 2010 revenues to various green programs. The utility anticipates $104.5 million in revenues, producing about $2.1 million for various green programs, ranging from rebates for customers who purchase Energy Star appliances and for renewable energy projects to consumer awareness efforts.
The utility has given nearly $2.1 million in rebates to 209 renewable energy projects, including a handful of solar thermal and micro-hydro efforts, since September 2004, Casey said.
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