FYI - from NY Times:
Solar panels may be getting cheaper, but rebates are also being slashed.
In September, Austin Energy cut its solar rebate for homeowners by a third and said it would require energy efficiency upgrades for future homeowners seeking the solar incentive. Xcel Energy, a big Western utility, just proposed a rebate cut for its solar program.
New York reduced its incentive by 50 cents per watt in October. According to Tor Valenza, a Green Inc. reader who writes about solar, that amounts to a net reduction of roughly $1,750 for a five-kilowatt system, depending on the homeowner’s tax status.
Xcel’s proposal would also reduce its rebate by 50 cents per watt, and California is also gradually ratcheting down its incentives. Massachusetts has shut down its rebate program too, The Cape Cod Times reports.
Even Australia recently halted its popular rebate, causing political tumult.
In virtually every case, the panels’ popularity — and the resulting impact on the budget — is prompting the reduction.
In New York’s case, the state’s Energy Research and Development Authority sent a letter a few weeks ago to installers “informing them that high program demand compelled them to reduce incentive levels, effective immediately,” according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.
Part of the reason for the strong demand is that the cost of solar panels has dropped substantially, by as much as 50 percent in recent years, according to Austin Energy. This means that the hand-off from the government to the market is working, says Barry Cinnamon, chief executive of Akeena Solar, an installer.
“There is a tendency for some people to get greedy about incentives,” Mr. Cinnamon wrote in an e-mail message. “I do not believe that the more the merrier is the right approach. Instead, I believe that incentives should decline as costs decline — that way ratepayer dollars are used most efficiently.”
Mr. Cinnamon added, “The worst thing that can happen is for us to keep incentives high, see the rate of installations increase to a feverish pace, then run out of money and have installers go home for six months while more incentive funds are drummed up.”
The government, of course, is still heavily subsidizing solar. Besides state rebates, homeowners across the country still benefit from a 30 percent federal tax credit — a benefit with no cap.