Big news from SDG&E!! First of all, the CPUC has rejected SDG&E’s request to charge its solar customers more for T&D (as a way to make the lost revenue from net metering). I’m not quite sure how I feel about that, as it’s true solar customers are using T&D and not paying for it. On the other hand, they are also perhaps helping SDG&E to avoid making additional grid investments in capacity-strained areas. In any case, I think it’s part of the growing pains of solar – the costs and benefits of net metering are by nature highly variable and not transparent, and while this policy is fine for an early market, it doesn’t seem ideal for a large, mainstream PV market.
Next up, SDG&E proposed two very interesting solar pilot programs! The first, Share the Sun, would enable consumers to purchase a portion of the solar power produced from a plant located anywhere in SDG&E’s service territory. They would then receive a credit for that power, just as if they had a net metered system on their own roof (this is more or less “virtual net metering“). This is especially great because currently only 30% of SDG&E customers can feasibly install onsite rooftop solar. With this program, everyone is able to invest – and that is very important for growing the market, increasing awareness of solar, and empowering the public to have a stake in its energy future.
The second program, SunRate, would allow customers to sign up to cover 50-100% of their energy use from local solar projects already supplying power to SDG&E. Their electricity rate would then be based on the actual costs of these solar plants. With a minimum time commitment of one year, this is potentially a great opportunity for customers, as it provides them with price certainty even if SDG&E’s overall rates go up.
Experience in Germany, the world’s leading solar market, has shown that empowering the public to invest in & benefit from solar is essential to gaining public acceptance & growing the market. Hopefully these two programs will go a long way towards creating the same conditions in California!