Residential solar, wind energy incentives remain on hold until 2014

October 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Wisconsin homeowners who want to install solar panels for electricity or hot water will have to wait until 2014 to apply for state rebates.

The state Public Service Commission has voted to keep the Focus on Energy incentive program for residential solar and small wind power projects off-limits through December.

The action comes after more than 600 people sent comments to the PSC over the past two months asking that the rebates be reinstituted.

The incentives were suspended because the state panel decided in 2012 that 75 percent of the funds allocated to the program should go toward biofuel or geothermal projects. So far this year, though, Focus on Energy has distributed $984,213, of the renewable incentives to the smaller residential projects and $873,835 to biofuel projects.

Up to $10 million is available this year for the program, funded by utility ratepayers.

The PSC adopted its incentive ratio in 2012 to “put heavy emphasis on putting more funding into cost-effective programs that highlighted the state’s strength in biomass and biogas,” commission spokesman Nathan Conrad said.

RENEW Wisconsin executive director Tyler Huebner called the PSC’s decision “a dark day for solar energy in Wisconsin.”

Huebner said the price of solar installations has “dropped steeply in recent years, and these projects are as cost-effective for residential and business customers as biogas is for farmers and food processors.”

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said suspension of the residential incentives is “a 19th century answer to a 21st century problem.”

“The solar industry creates jobs, stimulates the economy and doesn’t harm our planet nor the tourism industry,” Taylor said.

Huebner said he is concerned that the 75 percent/25 percent ratio will create continuing uncertainty in future years, not only for homeowners but also for the renewable energy industry.

Carol Stemrich, assistant administrator for the PSC’s gas and energy division, said she is “fairly confident” that residential solar and wind applications will be accepted again, starting Jan. 1. As for the possibility the program may face further suspensions, Stemrich said that can be avoided “if the program administrator is able to keep track of the likely implementation times of the technologies.”

Several biofuel projects are expected to be completed in 2014, and another request for proposals was issued this week, said Tamara Sondgeroth, Focus on Energy’s director of operations. That will clear the way for grants to smaller solar projects, she said.

Residential geothermal installations are still available for the state incentives during 2013.

Comments are closed.