Big updates to the 2019 Solar*Rewards Program

This week, Xcel Energy opened its Solar*Rewards Program for the 2019 program year, which includes Xcel’s first-ever incentives for solar projects that are owned by or serve low-income customers.

  • Xcel’s Income-Qualified Solar*Rewards Program will provide incentives which are specifically designed to reduce barriers to access for low-income customers.
  • The new income-qualified incentive structure pairs the existing Solar*Rewards production-based incentive with upfront incentives to reduce the initial costs of solar projects.
  • Fresh Energy recognizes that the new incentives are a step in the right direction. We filed comments and participated in Xcel’s stakeholder process to identify additional opportunities to maximize access and benefits to solar for low-income customers.

As part of its 2019 budget, Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards Program has set aside a portion of funds specifically for projects that serve low-income households. The program’s new low-income incentives are notable in that they introduce upfront incentives to the existing paradigm, and residential, nonprofit and multifamily, and community solar garden projects are all eligible (subject to income-qualification criteria). This means essentially that the barriers to entry are less cost-burdensome, making it possible for more members of our community to access solar.

The 2019 Solar*Rewards incentives are as follows:

2019 Production Incentive per kWh 2019 Up-front Incentive $/W
Residential Systems $0.07 N/A
Low-Income Residential Systems $0.07 $2.00
Low-Income Nonprofit and Multifamily $0.06 $1.00
Low-Income Solar Garden $0.06 $0.50
Commercial Systems $0.06 N/A

The program will reserve a minimum of $916,166 (equal to 10 percent of the annual budget) up to a maximum of $1,832,333 (20 percent of the budget) for low-income incentives until September 1, 2019, at which time any unused funds will be released for general use by the overall Solar*Rewards program.

Fresh Energy recommended that going forward, Xcel should include in its annual report specific information to determine whether the budgetary carve-out and caps are reflective of demand for low-income project incentives. The Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources agreed, and directed Xcel to report on the number and type of applications and total capacity on the low-income program waiting list, if demand exceeds available incentives.

Fresh Energy applauds Xcel Energy for taking this step to expand access to clean energy for its customers, and we look forward to continuing to work in service territories across the state to expand solar options for households of all incomes throughout Minnesota.

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