California Utility Replenishes Solar Rebate Funds

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has added another $150,000 in rebates to meet the demand of their solar rebate program. The program, PV Pioneer 2, provides financial incentives for contractors to pass on to customers.

PV Pioneer 2 is one part of SMUD’s long-term vision for solar technology. The program kicked off in January and by April the initial $350,000 of incentive money was exhausted. SMUD approved an additional $150,000 to keep the program going. State law in California also mandates utility rebate programs for solar energy. Using funds accrued from ratepayers under California law, SMUD redistributes $3.00 per watt in rebate money, saving the customer about $6,000 on the installation of a typical 2-kWsystem, which can sell for about $16,000. The customer owns the system and the power generated by it. SMUD credits the owner for any excess power the customer does not use and feeds back to the grid. SMUD’s first customer solar program, PV Pioneer 1, which began in 1993, had 500 customers volunteer to have SMUD purchase, install, and maintain PV systems on their roofs. The customers paid a monthly fee to help pay administrative costs. As a result of the program, the industry learned more about the technology, the costs dropped, and a local service market was developed. Now there are local businesses qualified to sell, install, and maintain solar power systems. SMUD is developing another solar frontier: working with builders to integrate solar panels into the building design of new homes further reducing costs of materials and labor and ultimately customers’ electric bills. SMUD is also marketing the program and provides customers a list of approved contractors to seek competitive bids. Since January, SMUD has referred more than 400 customers to contractors. SMUD has been involved in the development and implementation of solar technology for more than 20 years and has approximately 10 MW of PV installed across a territory of about 540,000 customers. That history includes incubating and fostering a local solar contractor base that has now taken over the marketing, sales, and installations of PV systems. A previous version of PV Pioneer 2 saw SMUD doing all the sales and installations.
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