SEPA releases top 10 solar utility rankings

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California's two largest investor-owned utilities added the most new solar power to their systems in 2012 in an annual ranking of electric utilities released today.

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) named Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) as leaders out of 10 electric utilities that are interconnecting the most solar into the US power grid.

Utilities integrated almost 2.4GW of solar electric capacity in 2012, equivalent to the construction of eight natural gas combined cycle power plants. The US now has more than 300,000 solar projects and almost 6.1GW installed across the country.

In 2012, PG&E added 805MW and SCE added 195MW followed by Public Service Electric & Gas Company with 145MW, which have previously ranked highly due to expansive customer solar programmes and utility purchasing programmes. Arizona Public Service added 124MW and NV Energy in Nevada added 102MW, followed by Jersey Central Power & Light's 98MW.

PG&E ranked first nationally and installed more than 800MW in 2012, an 80% increase over 2011 and more than what was installed in the entire country as recently as 2010. Its portfolio included nearly 630 MW of large-scale projects, of which 50 MW were utility-owned. PG&E also interconnected more than 17,500 net metered systems in 2012.

Steve Malnight, vice president for customer energy solutions at PG&E, said: “We are pleased at this significant recognition from SEPA and at the ongoing success of our efforts to help our customers enjoy the benefits of solar. We remain committed to providing our customers with energy that is clean, reliable, affordable and safe.”

SCE ranked second with more than 190MW of new solar generation and was driven primarily by 15,000 residential and non-residential projects, which accounted for more than 150MW.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) was the only municipal utility to make this year’s Top 10MW list, taking the ninth spot with nearly 70MW.

Julia Hamm, president and CEO of SEPA, said: “Utility companies across the nation are embracing clean energy solutions and showing their commitment to a more diverse energy portfolio improving the environment. We are impressed with the sheer number of new utilities that have moved into the Top 10 lists, particularly those who have never been ranked in the past and are now adopting solar as part of their energy mix, increasingly so as the price of solar power declines year-over-year.”

The rankings are part of SEPA's sixth annual utility solar report, which will be published in full next month.

Although utilities in western states and the north-east dominated the table, in terms of watts installed per customer Ohio and Hawaii swept the board almost comprehensively. The City of St Marys Municipal Electric System installed 563W per customer while Kauai Island Utility Cooperative installed 282W per customer.

Bob Gibson, vice president of education and outreach at SEPA, said: “Growth in utility integration of solar power continues to be driven to a large extent by state policy, but the interesting trends revealed in this year's Top 10 rankings highlight utility initiatives that go beyond these policies. These include creatively managing the sheer rate of solar growth – which at minimum causes utilities across the country to improve their ability to rapidly process and complete new interconnections.

“The trend in increasing size continues with the commissioning of a 250MW project delivering power to PG&E to meet California renewable goals. But in 2012 we also saw the emergence of solar built by utilities where mandates do not apply and solar is not an obvious choice, such as the total of 5.5MW built and owned by three small Ohio municipal utilities, landing those utilities in the SEPA 'top ten' list for highest solar watts per customer.”

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