San Diego utility says it will fill existing solar rooftop program by summer 2016

More than 20 years ago now, California lawmakers established economic incentives that were meant to spur the installation of rooftop solar in the state and promote clean energy. At the same time, the state established a limit for how much electricity could be generated within the program rules. The thinking then was the program would change or end once the limit was reached. Regardless of what happens once the limit is met, state law mandates that rules in place for current customers with rooftop solar will remain in place for 20 years from the date the customer’s solar panels were connected to the power grid.

SDG&E California utilityAnywho, with that background, the San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) reports that its customers are on track to fill up the available room in the existing solar rooftop program by summer 2016. To its credit, during the last decade SDG&E, has worked aggressively to increase the amount of renewable energy used by San Diego and southern Orange County homes and businesses. Today, the company is the only utility in California to deliver 33 percent of its energy primarily from wind and solar.

“We are committed to partnering with our customers to deliver clean energy solutions to their energy challenges,” said Caroline Winn, chief energy delivery officer for SDG&E. “It is in this spirit that we’ve developed new tools and technologies that have helped nearly 70,000 of our customers to integrate their clean energy technology with our reliable power grid to reduce fossil fuel dependence and provide clean air.”

SDG&E will share details of its progress connecting customers with rooftop solar in a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)-hosted public workshop on the Net Energy Metering (NEM) program. Customers and solar installers can view daily progress updates on connecting customers’ solar rooftops, wind and fuel cells to the power grid by clicking this highlighted text.

Today, families without solar panels— nearly 95 percent of SDG&E’s customers—pay an extra $100 per year to support the current program. If the current program structure and subsidies continue, these same families without solar panels are forecasted to pay an extra $360 on their utility bill annually by 2025.

With the CPUC now working to make a timely decision on the future structure of the program–one that should balance the interests of all customers-–SDG&E remains committed to building support for a new policy that recognizes two key considerations:

  • That non-solar customers should not be burdened with additional costs to support the program; and
  • The new program rules need to ensure that new solar customers pay for their use of the grid.

SDG&E says there is a misconception among customers that installing solar panels means they are “going off the grid.” In fact, all customers continue to use the grid, especially at night and when the sun is not shining.

“Our customers are seeking choices that must be delivered by a modern electric grid, and SDG&E has made significant investments to turn the grid into an innovative platform for integrating and maximizing all clean energy technologies,” said Winn. “These investments are necessary and will continue as our customers connect solar panels, electric vehicles and eventually energy storage to the power grid. The structure needs to align with these clean energy investments to fuel future innovation and create an affordable clean energy future. This is why getting the program rules right is so important.”

— Solar Builder magazine


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