PG&E To Offer Customers Community Solar Program

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The prominent utility company Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) will soon be offering its customers the option of getting up to 100% of their electricity from solar power, for a “modest” cost premium, according to a recent press report.

Pg&eThe utility reportedly only just received approval from state regulators for the new program — it’s expected that the company will start allowing enrollment in the program sometime during the fourth quarter of this year.

“Our green option is all about giving customers the power to choose and about bringing the benefits of solar to our communities. Our customers already enjoy some of the cleanest power in the United States, but we want to help them do even more to support clean energy and the green economy. Our green option will let them buy into a pool of clean solar energy, locally produced in our service area, to meet all of their electricity needs,” stated Chris Johns, president of PG&E.

As noted by a recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, only one in every four or so residential rooftop areas are suited for solar installations — as a result, those looking to “go solar” may not be able to do so depending on where they live. This new program is intended to address that to some degree.

PG&E will buy energy for the program from newly developed small and mid-sized solar projects located within its service area. Participating residential and commercial customers can choose to cover either 50 or 100% of their energy use. They will pay the incremental cost of the new solar energy they consume, as well as related program costs. The initial estimated premium of 2-3 cents per kilowatt-hour likely will fall over time as solar costs decline relative to the cost of PG&E’s standard power, which is more than 25% renewable today.

“This program offers a great opportunity for PG&E customers who want to reduce carbon pollution and buy 100% clean energy,” stated Peter Miller, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “PG&E’s green option is a big win for Californians and the environment.”

A separate program will reportedly be on offer as well — allowing customers to deal directly with 3rd-party developers for a portion of the output of local projects.

Image Credit: PG&E

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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13 thoughts on “PG&E To Offer Customers Community Solar Program

  • I am somehow skeptical about this gesture of PG&E, and somehow, somewhere find this very suspicious. what could be the hidden surprise baggage of fees? I am sure this will be scrutinized very closely. or have they really found the truth that it would be good for them not to lose all their customers?

    • My skepticism would be about how much new solar will be built because of this. Will this increase the net amount of solar that PG&E contracts more, above the already aggressive amounts scheduled to meet renewables mandates?

      Of course the customer really is only purchasing green bragging rights, they don’t get a discount on their billing.

      The hint of the second initiative, the ability to be part owner -or at lease the lessor of a community solar plant. This allows customers to capture economic benefits as well.

      • Exactly. So PG&E is currently at 25% RE. So they can see the 100% option to a lot of people (who pay extra) but not build/buy another kwh of RE until they have “used” up the 25% they already have. So it’s just a extra profit machine.

    • Hence the name “community solar” it’s collectivizing the costs just like the finance industry.

      • and don’t forget, the collectivizing of the fleecing out of the limited-choice ratepayers as well.

    • I see a good number of people installing solar in their back or front yards — even when the roof space isn’t optimal.

      I think the city or state should step in and require that 10 percent of these green applications go to apartments and low income dwellings at no added cost.

  • Awkward that solar at utility scale comes in at or below current “dirty” grid pricing and they are still charging a premium. I suppose it’s good to have the option…hopefully it will drive those that can, to install rooftop solar as it’s a much better option financially.

  • I am so conflicted on this. Because of conservation, our electric bill is low enough that installing PV panels has a payback of “never” so this would give me chance to clear my conscience. On the other hand, why is it so expensive? For me it would be nearly 30% more costly.

    • If you install rooftop solar — also consider that it adds, on average, 15,000 dollars in equity to your home’s value.

    • As for us here in Northern California, when you conserve enough, it brings you down to the lowest tier pricing, which would still be more expensive than the cost of financing and amortization to a properly sized solar system that delivers the same energy on a yearly basis. But with solar, you should size it not only for your household usage, but for charging up your EV as well. That extra energy can be used very well with EV and saves you more money than you realize.

      • We are almost completely in the lowest tier but when I checked prices last year, even on a DIY basis for everything except the electrical hook-up, it came to a 12-year payback for PV. If you factor in the cost of money, it is basically never. In addition, as someone else pointed out, PGE already is largely renewables so what am I really accomplishing for the environment?

        I think PG&E’s real idea is to pre-empt “Community Choice Aggregation” which requires PG&E to provide all residents of a city 50% renewable electricty as the default at the same rates as ‘regular’ generation with the individual option to go 100% for a very slightly higher fee. For some reason, the utilities hate this.

        • You could get a 40 watt portable solar panel that has DC and USB (2.1 amps) out, so you can charge decently large portable batteries (like the Anker rated 20,000 mAh battery, but 15,000 effective) and charge up phones / tablets and //maybe// laptops, with no coal use ever.

          Not to mention if you phone battery is low during the day, and you aren’t near a wall outlet, just take the Anker battery pack with you and charge it literally wherever you are! There are cheaper models as well…

  • Here is a true example of community solar that results in the effective lowering of your electric bills. PG&E truly hates this best rated non-profit utility company. I have been talking about this company that spearheads in renewable mandates and yet CleanTechnica have not really featured them or their programs. They are a great role model for renewable energy implementation!

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