San Diego Gas & Electric has filed with the California Public Utilities Commission for approval of its new solar proposal called " the sun." The proposal complements rooftop solar and includes two 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.

"Research shows that fewer than 30 percent of our customers currently can take advantage of rooftop solar either because of structural, shading or ownership issues," said James P. Avery, senior vice president of power supply for SDG&E. "Our proposal would expand solar access to all of our customers and also open up a new potential market for solar developers. With the addition of more clean solar energy, our communities, the environment and our region will benefit."

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 Sun -- 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.