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Xcel Energy reaches deal with solar industry

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DENVER (AP) — Xcel Energy and the solar industry have agreed to triple the size of the utility's popular solar panel incentive program.

The agreement between Colorado's largest electricity provider and the industry comes after the allocation for 2013 was used up in April.

Under the plan, Xcel will issue more solar panel installation rebates for small residential and commercial installations.

According to the Denver Post (http://tinyurl.com/cp4pzdu , SolarRewards paid nearly $212 million in rebates for more than 7,000 solar-power systems between 2006 and 2010.

Xcel has been slowly cutting back on the size of the program. Under the proposed plan, that trend would continue.

The money comes from a 2 percent renewable-energy charge on customer bills, but that fund is now $32 million in the red.

Last year, the state Office of Consumer Counsel and the PUC staff argued that a smaller plan be adopted to curb the costs of the program.

"Less than one percent of Xcel customers benefited, but we have to think about all the ratepayers," consumer counsel office director Bill Levis said of the proposed cutbacks.

Western Resource Advocates, an environmental policy group, argued for higher requirements but said it would accept a reasonable compromise.

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Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com

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