It’s no secret that switching your home over to solar energy can help you save a bundle on your energy costs. But what about the millions of Californians who don’t own a home? Switching to solar in multi-resident buildings like apartment and condo complexes is a considerably larger challenge. However, it’s also one that’s failed spectacularly in the Golden State. In fact, the millions of customers who don’t have access to their rooftop for solar power production haven’t had nearly the same opportunity to change their own energy over to renewable sources.
Known as “community solar” projects, the big challenge that these types of projects are facing is that developers are struggling to get all of their residents on board with these solar transition projects. This hasn’t been made any easier by a lack of effective programs that properly incentivize multi-family building residents to get on board with these projects.
This isn’t to say California’s community solar programs have been a total failure—they’ve deployed over 112 megawatts of community solar capacity. But when you compare that to the residential market which has deployed more than 5 gigawatts of power, it really appears to be nothing more than a drop in the bucket of the state’s power demands. Another way to look at it: California possesses just under half of the entire country’s solar capacity, but only around ten percent of the country’s community solar.
As a result, Southern California Edison wants to overhaul community solar programs to make them friendlier for residents and easier to undertake for developers. The utility company recently asked the California Public Utilities Commission to recover nearly $6 million in costs in order to launch new “green energy programs” in the year 2021.
Under these new programs, a large developer who wants to build a project with at least 500 kilowatts of load could sponsor a community solar project. As long as the developer themselves consumes at least 80 percent of the power produced by this large installation, they can make the other 20 percent available to local customers via subscription.
Solar industry advocates have always been apprehensive of electrical utilities getting involved in solar development, but SoCal Edison has been quick to ensure local installers that this program wouldn’t be the utility mega-giant getting involved in project building. Through this project, all installations would be bid out to the private solar industry—SCE is purely helping connect customers to developers who wish to undertake one of these community projects.
This new program should help encourage the state to move sharply towards Governor Jerry Brown’s aggressive carbon emissions laws. The outgoing governor recently signed a bill which bans carbon emissions from electricity generation by the year 2045.
Ultimately the success or failure of these programs is going to boil down to cost, and ultimately each customer is primarily concerned with how much they’re going to be paying for their energy each month. While Southern California Edison doesn’t have any incentive to undercut their own prices or profit margins with these programs (they have instituted both one-time and monthly connection fees for solar customers in order to offset grid maintenance costs), many people believe that the overall falling prices of solar will still make this power cheaper.
Want to learn more about switching over to solar energy? Call SunPower by Sea Bright Solar at (909) 480-3783 now and speak with one of our Southern California solar experts!