The city of Boulder announced Tuesday that it will create a working group of solar industry specialists and customers to explore incentives and barriers to implementing more solar throughout the city.

The focus of the group's work will be defining the next generation of incentives as well as providing guidance about how to handle solar contracts between now and the time when the city decides whether it will create a local utility.

"Supporting and increasing renewable sources of energy is a core value, and we see this discussion as an important next step in our effort to create the electric utility of the future," said Heather Bailey, executive director of Energy Strategy and Electric Utility Development for the city.

In a statement, Bailey said the city has a unique opportunity to benefit from local experts to design programs that will encourage more local energy production.

Experts from the university and federal labs as well as numerous companies and entrepreneurs developing leading-edge energy technology, have already helped Boulder achieve one of the highest levels of solar per-capita in the United States, with close to 14 megawatts installed in the city, she said.

"This is fundamental to achieving our community's goals, whether we create our own public utility or strike a new agreement with our current provider, Xcel Energy," said Bailey.


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One of the questions the city would like to resolve is how to encourage continued participation in solar installations during the ongoing deliberation about - and possible transition to - a local electric utility.

Xcel Energy recently sent the city a letter requesting that the city agree to take over contracts it has with customers if Boulder forms an electric retail utility.

The city said it is committed to protecting those who have investments in solar energy in Boulder from any adverse impact related to the creation of a municipal utility.

The city said it is also interested in working with Xcel on "this important issue, not only to protect those who have already made investments, but to encourage growth in this area of renewable energy."

Howard Pankratz: 303-954-1939, hpankratz@denverpost.com or twitter.com/howardpankratz