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CPS Energy, Solar San Antonio work together on solar rebate changes
By Tracy Idell Hamilton on June 27, 2013
CPS Energy and Solar San Antonio, with input from local solar installers, have come up with a fix to an unforeseen issue that recently arose with commercial solar rebates.
When a solar company submitted applications to CPS Energy for 21 projects, requesting rebates totaling more than $1.9 million, utility officials quickly realized that the projects would deplete this year’s commercial portion of the rebate pool.
CPS Energy reached out to Solar San Antonio, which leads the effort to expand the solar market in the San Antonio region, to help the utility come up with an alternative to simply exhausting the rebate dollars and throwing the nascent market into turmoil.
Together, CPS Energy and Solar San Antonio, with input from the installer community, agreed on a way to extend the rebate at least through the end of the year; the Solar Working Group, a mix of CPS Energy staff and solar installers, convened last month to hash out an equitable alternative to net-metering, will also tackle longer term solutions.
The current rebate, considered one of the most generous in the country, will be reduced from $2 a watt to $1.60 a watt; the maximum total rebate per project will go from $100,000 to $80,000. Rebates for school projects will drop from $2.50 a watt to $2, also with an $80,000 cap.
Additionally, almost $1.7 million left unused from last year’s pool of rebates will be added, in a 75/25 split, to this year’s commercial and residential rebate pool.
The new rebate levels will go into effect when this year’s budgeted amount is tapped out; the money from last year will be allocated at the new rebate level.
“When we saw this large number of applications would exhaust this year’s commercial rebate budget, we realized how disruptive that could be to the industry. So we reached out to Solar San Antonio to see if we could agree on a solution,” said Cris Eugster, CPS Energy’s executive vice president and chief strategy and technology officer.
Eugster said he was pleased that everyone was able to come together and agree on a solution to what he called “a real-time challenge.”
Lanny Sinkin, executive director of Solar San Antonio, agreed.
“We’re pleased to the see rapid expansion of solar in San Antonio,” he said. “The widespread adoption of solar within the business community confirms that solar makes ‘cents.'”
He said the Solar San Antonio board voted to accept the changes to the rebate program on Thursday afternoon.
But today’s vote won’t settle the matter permanently.
The sudden influx of commercial applications shows that its difficult to project solar’s growth. As the groups work together going forward, he said, everyone “will need to remain flexible and be prepared to respond to rapidly changing situations.”