Solar and Other Distributed Generation

PG&E has helped our customers connect more than 60,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to the electric grid—more systems than any other utility in the country. In fact, this represents about 30 percent of the PV systems installed throughout the United States. PG&E also plays an important role in assisting customers who choose to integrate other alternative generation sources at their homes and businesses.

With incentives for rooftop solar, solar water heating, fuel cells, wind and other advanced technologies, PG&E provides a full suite of customer distributed generation programs. And we will continue to work with policymakers and other stakeholders to chart a course to a clean energy future—one that gives customers clean energy choices, helps ensure the reliability of the grid and is affordable for all customers.

California Solar Initiative

The statewide goal for the California Solar Initiative (CSI) is to install 1,940 MW of new, customer-installed solar capacity by 2017.

Through CSI, PG&E is helping to make solar more affordable for residential and commercial customers via incentives funded by a distribution charge in customer rates. The program includes incentives for homes and businesses, including special programs for single- and multi-family affordable housing and new energy efficient homes that install solar. The incentive amounts were designed to decline over time to encourage early adopters to participate and stimulate the solar marketplace—ultimately, making PV more cost-effective and affordable for all customers.

Additionally, PG&E’s Net Energy Metering (NEM) program gives customers the ability to reduce their electricity bills with energy their solar generating system exports to the grid. PG&E also compensates customers for energy their renewable system generates in excess of their consumption over a twelve month period.

In 2011, we interconnected more than 13,600 customer-owned solar PV systems to the electric grid. Last year, PG&E also paid and reserved $137 million in CSI rebates for 70 MW of both installed and currently active residential and commercial solar installations. Our customers accounted for nearly half of the total customer applications to reserve CSI funding for residential and commercial solar projects.

Through the program, PG&E has the potential to provide more than $760 million in solar rebates to our customers over a 10-year period. Through 2011, PG&E awarded approximately $600 million for 400 MW of installed solar PV systems. We continue to work collaboratively with regulators, the other program administrators and key industry stakeholders on changes to the CSI program to help ensure the goals of the program are met.

* Refers to customer applications to reserve California Solar Initiative funding for residential and commercial solar projects.

Other Self-Generation Incentives

PG&E’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) provides incentives for other advanced generating technologies, such as fuel cells, wind, combustion turbines and advanced energy storage. In 2011, PG&E worked with the CPUC, the other program administrators and industry stakeholders to implement California Senate Bill 412 (SB 412), which allowed SGIP to include additional technologies beyond fuel cells and wind.

Over a three-month application period in 2011, we received nearly 100 new applications for about 30 MW and $63 million in rebates. SGIP will operate until 2016 and PG&E will work to help ensure the technologies meet the goals of the program—to reduce peak load and greenhouse gas emissions for participating customers.

Solar Water Heating Program

PG&E’s solar water heating program provides rebates to residential, multifamily and commercial customers who install eligible solar water heating systems in their home or business. Last year, PG&E allocated more than $1.2 million in incentives, helping customers avoid the need for electricity or natural gas to heat water.

The program will run through December 2017 or until the budget of $300 million is exhausted, whichever comes first. As with the existing CSI program, rebate amounts will decline over time to provide an incentive for early adopters to participate.

Offering Education and Training

PG&E remains focused on raising awareness of solar power and other generating technologies among our customers. Achievements last year included:

  • Offering a wide range of training opportunities on solar and other technologies for different audiences and education levels, both online and in the classroom. We held 145 solar classes last year with nearly 3,000 people in attendance.
  • Providing customers with a Solar Analysis tool to estimate the benefits of installing solar and a Solar Savings Kit with all the information needed to go solar.
  • Partnering with Diablo Valley College to offer an innovative, hands-on solar water heating course to candidates with valid contractor licenses. Many participants have since begun to offer solar water heating services.

Earning Recognition

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) named Pacific Gas and Electric Company one of six winners of its 2011 SEPA Solar Business Achievement Awards, given to utilities and partners that increase the percentage of the nation’s energy mix generated by solar energy. Pacific Gas and Electric Company won the award for utility community outreach and public awareness.

For the third straight year, Pacific Gas and Electric Company also ranked first on SEPA’s list of utilities with the most solar MW added to the grid, and ranked fifth for adding the most solar on a watts-per-customer-served basis. The rankings were based on 2010 data.

On the Horizon for 2012

Customer-side solar PV installations continue to show strong progress, in part due to new financing structures and significant reductions in system costs. PG&E will continue to partner with customers who wish to install solar projects on their side of the meter and will focus on providing a high level of service.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company President Chris Johns presented Medtronic Inc. with a $241,000 check for the company’s solar installation. The medical device company added 1,344 solar panels to its Santa Rosa plant and earned the incentive through the California Solar Initiative.

Officials from the City of Bakersfield, the U.S. Department of Energy and PG&E welcomed an upgraded wastewater treatment plant featuring a 1 MW PV solar system upgrade. The project, which will allow the wastewater treatment plant to get about one-third of its power from the sun, received $3 million in federal stimulus funds. In addition, PG&E expects to provide up to $2.7 million to the City in rebates over the next five years.

In addition, the SGIP and solar water heating programs will create more choices for customers looking for the most cost-effective way to generate their own power and save on energy costs.

When offering these programs, PG&E believes it’s important to carefully manage the goals of safety, reliability and affordability when making clean energy choices. PG&E is committed to working with agencies and stakeholders to bring changes in rate design and net energy metering to balance the interests of participating and non-participating customers.

PG&E also continues to encourage customers to invest in more cost-effective energy efficiency measures that complement distributed generation. This includes requiring customers to conduct an energy efficiency audit before applying for CSI incentive funding. As technologies become more advanced, we are exploring how solar and other distributed generation can integrate into the Smart Grid and provide additional benefits to our customers.