On January 17th SDG&E filed with the CPUC for approval of a new innovative proposal called “connected…..to the sun.” The proposal is intended to complement rooftop solar and includes two different pilot programs that would give all SDG&E customers options to buy solar power even if they do not own a home, cannot afford a solar investment, or do not have the ability to put photovoltaic panels on their roof. Customers could choose to buy all or some of their energy from solar projects located in SDG&E’s service territory or negotiate directly with a local solar provider.
The application includes two pilot program elements designed to gauge the level of interest among customers for whom rooftop solar may not be a viable option:
- Share the SunSM -- This community solar pilot program would open up a new potential market for solar providers. Up to 10 megawatts (MW) of solar power will be available for the program from projects owned by solar providers. Customers could acquire a portion of the power produced by a solar-energy system in SDG&E’s service area to cover all or part of their electricity use and receive a bill credit for the value of the solar power their portion generates. The “green attributes” of the solar power would belong to the customer and would not be applied toward SDG&E’s renewable portfolio goals. However, SDG&E will take delivery of all the energy from these projects, and any unsubscribed energy will be added to SDG&E’s renewable portfolio, but will be over and above what is procured to meet the 33 percent renewables target.
- SunRate -- With this pilot program, customers could have their energy supplied from local solar projects already under contract to SDG&E. As much as 10 MW will be available under this “green” rate. Customers would buy the solar energy from SDG&E to cover 50 percent, 75 percent, or all of their energy use. The price will be based on the cost of the solar energy from the local solar projects. A minimum one-year commitment is required.
The advantage of large solar projects is that they can be built to maximize system benefits and minimize costs by selecting locations with the best sun exposure. And, because these pilot programs won’t rely on rate subsidies, customers will have greater economic certainty by being able to lock in the price of the solar commodity over the term of their contract.
SDG&E is proposing these programs on a pilot basis to test customers’ interest and preferences. Before filing this application, SDG&E representatives met with a number of solar industry businesses, community leaders, and policymakers to get their feedback. In response to the input from these stakeholders, SDG&E also is proposing to schedule a series of workshops in San Diego -- with CPUC oversight -- to give interested parties a hands-on opportunity to help to finalize the optimum design and program requirements for Share the Sun and to ensure the transparency and openness of the process. Any new programs and/or services developed during these workshops could be submitted for CPUC approval in a separate application.