In San Diego, You Can Go Solar Without Owning a Home

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San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has filed two proposals with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that, if approved, may allow you to choose electricity generated by solar energy instead of fossil fuel-based energy, whether you own a home or not.

SDG&E is applying to begin two pilot programs. Information for each of them (and they’re worth checking out) is detailed below.

Share the Sun Solar Farms

The first program, called “Share the Sun,” would allow solar contractors to purchase and install their own “solar farms” on their own or purchased property. San Diego customers would then be able to purchase a portion of the electricity generated from the provider installations.

You would be able to choose the size of the portion you wish to acquire, and would receive credit on your electricity bill for the value of the solar energy generated. In effect, this program would be similar to group-buying or community solar gardens.

Get a percentage of solar energy through SunRate

The second pilot program, called “SunRate,” would indirectly allow customers to purchase solar electricity produced by SDG&E’s own solar projects. SDG&E would establish a “green” rate that would reflect the cost of the solar energy generated by these projects.

In a twist that puts the power right in your hands, you could choose to have 50 percent, 75 percent or 100 percent of your electricity at the new, green rate. Although you would have to agree to a year’s subscription, the price (and reduction in energy costs) would be guaranteed for the term of the contract.

Why are utilities going solar?

In California, a utility’s renewable energy portfolio must represent 20 percent of that utility’s total energy distribution by 2013, and 33 percent by 2020. SDG&E has been showing progress towards reaching those goals, with several solar farms of their own up and running–and with more planned.

Recently, however, SDG&E proposed that the CPUC allow them to demand a “network usage charge,” a $20 to $30 a monthly fee, on homeowners who own or lease residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. The CPUC struck down the proposal.

SDG&E provides service to 3.5 million customers in San Diego and Orange County. The company is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy. Recently, Sempra Energy stock hit a new 52-week high. Before applying to the CPUC for the two pilot programs, SDG&E met with solar providers, community leaders and policymakers for input.

SDG&E is also proposing that the CPUC oversee a series of workshops where interested parties would be able to help shape the pilot programs to ensure transparency. Homeowners in San Diego can already save quite a bit on solar costs due to rebates, incentives and the like.

Should the CPUC approve the two pilot programs, many residents in the area will have the opportunity to go solar without installing a home solar power system at their own homes. As solar energy produced by larger solar installations typically costs less, residents may have the chance to lock in cheaper rates for their electricity, proving, once again, that going green can add green to the wallet, too.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

1 Comment

  1. Fantastic. Thanks for the article. I miss the days of being able to choose our provider, such as Green Mountain Energy, but these will be nice options. It will be interesting to see how the pricing plays out. Many consumers say that they will spend more to “go green”, but when it comes down to brass tax they end up opting for the cheaper alternative.

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