PG&E tops list of solar-active US utilities

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US utilities were responsible for integrating almost 2.4GW of solar capacity last year, according to an assessment of the most solar-active companies.

The Solar Electric Power Association’s (SEPA) annual utility solar rankings analyses the US utilities doing most to incorporate solar into their energy portfolio.

It revealed Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to be the most solar-friendly utility, accounting for over 800 of the 2,384MW of solar electricity integrated by utilities in 2012. This was 80% more than its 2011 figure.

Its portfolio included nearly 630MW of large-scale projects, including the 250MW Agua Caliente project it purchased last year. PG&E also interconnected more than 17,500 net metered systems in 2012.

In total utilities purchased over 1,000MW of large-scale solar, mostly through power purchase agreements. Overall the market share for large-scale solar in the US in 2012 grew by 160% compared to 2011.

SEPA predicted that the completion of utility-procured, large-scale solar projects in 2013 would probably surpass the 2,400MW of solar deployed across all market segments in 2012.

But it also said demand for net energy metering (NEM) would remain strong, continuing the trend of 2012, in which utilities installed 90,000 NEM projects totalling 1,151MW. This represented a 46% increase on 2011.

Overall NEM accounted for the lion’s share – 99% – of the new utility-led solar projects completed last year, but less than 50% of the total installed capacity. NEM activity was concentrated primarily in five states – California, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii and New Jersey.

“Customer-sited solar was a large part of the 2012 solar market driven by third-party residential leasing and we expect this will continue to grow in 2013,” said SEPA president and CEO Julia Hamm. “We expect continued growth in [these] five states, in addition to other emerging markets across the country.”

But despite their activities in promoting solar in the US, particularly through NEM, utilities in some states have been accused of working behind the scenes to undermine this segment of the industry.

Last month leading rooftop solar providers SolarCity , Sungevity, Sunrun and others joined forces to form a lobbying group, the Alliance for Solar Choice, to counter what they said were efforts by utility companies, including PG&E, to curb NEM.

They maintained that utilities are trying water down NEM because of the costs they claim the policy puts on non-solar using ratepayers.

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