a man on a roof crouched along a row of solar panels that he is installinglong a

Last Chance to Get Solar Rebate in DC?

a man on a roof crouched along a row of solar panels that he is installinglong aIn the last week, I had four different friends ask me what they needed to do to go solar.  I thought it was a good time to send out an update on the DC Rebate Program and the economics of solar.  Here are the basics.

Getting a Solar Rebate in Washington DC

  • The District of Columbia’s original 4-year Renewable Energy Incentive Program (REIP) came to an end in 2012.  Those that were able to get in on this program got a very sizable rebate at the beginning of the program, and those at the end received a good rebate, but at about half the amount originally offered.
  • DC has decided to continue with a rebate program in 2013 (which also includes solar thermal), but again, the rebate amounts have been cut substantially.
  • Recent drops in solar panel prices have somewhat offset the drop in the DC rebate amount.
  • The market for solar renewable energy credits (sRECS) remains strong in DC, meaning that the combination of sRECs, the available 30% Federal tax credit and the DC rebate continues to make solar an attractive investment.
  • All signs seem to point to the gradual phase-out of rebates as panel prices fall and solar comes much closer to grid parity (when solar generation costs are equal to other non-renewable sources).
  • Even if you have not completely decided to go solar, you should put your name on the waiting list for the DC Rebate program.  You can decline later if you decide not to move ahead.  When applying for the rebate, if you have not yet selected a contractor, you can indicate on the application that you are with the DC Solar United Neighborhood (DC SUN) cooperative.  See www.dcsun.org for more about going solar, finding a contractor and applying for a DC Rebate.

Costs

  • Most homeowners are putting on systems that are in the range of 3-6kW.  Installed systems can be found below $4 per watt.
  • A very simplified cost scenario for a 4kW system goes as follows — $16,000 system cost – which would receive a $2,000 DC Rebate, a $4,800 Federal Tax credit, and more than $4,200 in sRECs.  Considering rebates and subsidies, out of pocket expenses fall to $5,000.  Your electricity bill would be reduced by more than $600 per year.  Under this scenario, your break even point would be about 8 years.  Finding a contractor a bit cheaper than $4 per watt, and selling your sRECs on a quarterly basis (rather than an up front lump sum) might shave that break even point down to about 5 years.
  • Some companies will offer leases if you are not able to pay for or finance your system.

More About the DC Rebate

Looking back out the DC Rebate program, it was a bumpy road in regard many aspects of the program.  Solar advocates in DC had to keep fighting each year to ensure that dedicated funds were not raided for other purposes.  However, in the end, more than 700 projects were funded by the DC Department of Environment (a small amount of additional rebates, not included in the table below, were issued by the DC Sustainable Energy Utility).

DC Renewable Energy Incentive Program 2009 -2012:
Fiscal Year Funded
System Type
# of Incentives
Capacity (MW)
Incentive Amount
2009
Photovoltaic
61
0.2
$542,890.00
2010
Photovoltaic
216
0.9
$2,364,965.00
2011
Photovoltaic
144
0.9
$1,932,349.00
2012
Photovoltaic
278
1.4
$1,747,788.00
Thermal
15
$71,214.00
It looks like 2013 might turn out to be the highest year in regard to systems receiving rebates.  There are currently, 386 people on the waiting list for photovoltaic systems (link).  DC indicated that rebate offers would begin going out in February 2013, so some people on the waiting list may be getting approval letters.  The funding levels are as follows:
For calendar year 2013, DDOE will offer  the following solar incentives:
·         $0.50/watt for photovoltaic systems, with a cap of  $10,000 (equivalent to a 20kW)
·         20% of total system cost up to $2,000 for residential thermal and,
·         20% of total system cost up to $6,000 for non-residential thermal systems
The REIP was given $1 million in the Sustainable DC Act of 2012, so assuming an average rebate of $2,500 per system, there will be 400 rebates available.  Assuming there is no other funding available, now would be a good time to get on the Waiting List.
Lastly, if you live in MD, you may be able to get a state rebate.  sREC prices in MD are much lower than in DC.  If you are in VA, solar incentives are very poor, but you can ask the governor to fix that using this petition.