Pacific Gas & Electric Company of California (PG&E)(NYSE: PCG) topped the list of
utilities with the most solar megawatts (MW) added to the grid for the second straight year, according to the rankings released by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). PG&E added 85.2
But new additions to the Top Ten list and overall growth in solar integration defined 2009,
according to SEPA.
The total solar power added by the Top Ten utilities grew from 169 MW in 2008 to 279 MW in 2009, a
growth of 66% in a year when electricity demand as a whole declined as the result of an economic
downturn. These ten utilities represented 80% of the survey total and are a focal point for the
nation’s solar activity. The results of SEPA’s research suggest that this growth was sparked in part by a
drop in price for photovoltaic modules and systems worldwide.
Joining the Top Ten this year are Florida Power & Light Company (NYSE: FPL) at number 4 (29.5
MW, not ranked in 2008), Salt River Project at number 8 (5.8 MW, ranked 25th in 2008) in Arizona, and
the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at number 10 (4.889 MW, ranked 12th in 2008).
However, utilities across the country are strengthening their solar portfolios, according to SEPA’s survey
results. The Top Ten utilities’ share of overall solar generation in the survey actually dropped from 80% in 2008 to 80% in 2009, indicating increasing solar activity by utilities outside of the Top
As part of its analysis of the solar utility market, SEPA also controls for the size of a utility’s customer
base and presents a Top Ten list based on the solar watts-per-customer of participating utilities. That list also features newcomers this year, specifically, Sulphur Springs Valley Electric
Cooperative and Graham County Electric Cooperative, both in Arizona and unranked in 2008. Sulphur
Springs Valley Electric Cooperative took the top spot in 2009, with 56 watts-per-customer, and Graham
County Electric Cooperative took the tenth spot, with 14.8 watts-per-customer.
Also making the leap
into the Top Ten this year were The City of Santa Clara/Silicon Valley Power (22.3 watts-per-customer),
and Southern California Edison (15.3 watts-per-customer). Only Southern California Edison and Pacific
Gas & Electric made both annual ranking lists.
One of the report’s key conclusions is that utilities’ solar portfolios are on the cusp of significant
changes. Traditionally, solar electric markets have been distributed, consumer-focused, and solar
industry driven but 2009 marked the beginning of change in market dynamics. The 2009 rankings were
impacted in part by several centralized or aggregated distributed solar projects that were built or began
construction, and several utilities that were directly involved in owning new solar projects.
on the utility side of the meter increased 267% from around 18 MW in 2008 to 65 MW in 2009
and made up 19% of the survey’s total, up from 9% the previous year.
Top Ten By Megawatts Added
- Pacific Gas & Electric (CA) - 85.2 MW
- Southern California Edison (CA) - 74.2 MW
- Public Service Electric & Gas (NJ) - 29.6 MW
- Florida Power & Light (FL) - 29.5 MW
- San Diego Gas & Electric (CA) - 17.6 MW
- Public Service Co. of CO-Xcel Energy (CO) - 16.3
- Arizona Public Service Co. (AZ) - 58 MW
- Salt River Project (AZ) 5.8 MW
- Sacramento Municipal Utility District (CA) - 4.9 MW
- Los Angeles Dept. of Water & Power (CA) - 4.9 MW
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SEPA has created Utility Solar Interest Groups (USIGs) for its utility members. USIGs provide forums to identify industry concerns, examine potential solutions, share ideas and develop best practices, SEPA says.
The groups focus on the following issues: grid integration, including distributed and centralized grid analysis, design, operation and management; policy, including federal policy, state legislation and regulation; program management, including customer incentive, marketing and educational needs; strategic issues, such as workforce development, grid parity and climate change; and utility solar business models.
Each USIG sets its own schedule and agenda on a consensus basis, and uses online tools so that participants can contact each other, share meeting summaries and other documents and post announcements The USIGs are currently open only to employees of SEPA member utilities.