San Diego recently became the first municipality in California to reach the cap – 617 megawatts (MW) – on the amount of residential solar-generated electricity that utilities have to buy back from customers.
What happens now? In 2013, the state legislature passed Assembly Bill 327, limiting the amount of solar power utilities had to buy from their customers to 5 percent of its total load during peak hours. The law mandated, “For each large investor-owned utility, the successor tariff is to take effect either on July 1, 2017, or upon reaching the 5 percent program limit, whichever is earlier.” The new regulations will be in effect through at least 2019.
The good news is that homeowners with rooftop solar still can sell their excess power back into the grid – and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) will continue to pay for it. The bad news is that the utility has announced that it will impose new fees on such sales that are expected to increase residential bills by $115 over the 20-year life of an installation.
“We are going to continue to buy back power at the retail rate, but what’s changing is there will be a fee for interconnecting solar panels to the reliable power grid,” Amber Albrecht, a spokes person for SDG&E, told KPBS Radio News. “That’s a one-time fee. Future customers in the program will also contribute to state-mandated and lower-income energy efficiency programs.”
The utility believes the added charges won’t be enough to deter the residential solar installations, Albrecht said.