LIPA suspends residential solar rebates

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The Long Island Power Authority on Friday suspended for the rest of 2013 its popular rebate program for residential solar-energy systems, saying that "the money has run out."

LIPA also said it may do away with residential rebates entirely depending on how systems sell without the rebate through the rest of this year.

"If there's continued selling in the marketplace, there may not be a necessity for rebates in the residential area," said Michael Deering, LIPA's vice president of environmental affairs.

But one local installer predicted job losses among a field of local installers, and a reduced attractiveness for systems themselves.

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"At the end of the day if the financial aspect . . . [of rebates] doesn't exist, no one will do it," said Ronnie Mandler, owner of Best Energy Power in Valley Stream. Most of Mandler's business is in commercial solar, which won't be affected, but he predicted the move by LIPA would "put a lot of residential installers out of the business." He said it will have the most impact on those companies that have helped LIPA cultivate and grow the local solar market.

Deering said LIPA has seen triple the number of customers sign up for the program this year compared with last year, following an influx of companies that offer no-money-down leasing of home solar systems.

The suspension doesn't affect LIPA's solar rebate program for commercial and nonprofit customers. Deering also said that if LIPA receives money to replenish the program, it would lift the suspension.

The suspension means that customers who opt to purchase or lease systems will have to foot an even greater part of the bill. It can cost upward of $48,000 for a 10-kilowatt system.

LIPA at one point covered more than half the cost of the systems. Earlier this month, it had reduced the rebate amount to 66 cents per watt, meaning it would pay no more than $6,600 for a 10-kilowatt system.

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