If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them: Utilities Getting Into Solar Installation Business

Utilities may be starting to see the light – if you can’t beat them, join them – when it comes to solar.

While some continue to charge extra fees to make solar less attractive, several utilities are starting to offer their own solar leasing programs.

NRG Energy is leading; Arizona’s Tucson Power has installed 2000 systems and wants to double that, and Georgia Power’s program just began.  

Now, NY State’s major utility, ConEdison will install SunPower‘s solar systems on homes across the state. It’s a typical leasing model: ConEdison will take full responsibility for installing and maintaining the systems, and homeowners will pay fixed,  lower monthly fees under 20-year contracts. The program begins in August. 

SunPower is the first solar company to be earn cradle-to-cradle certification:

Cradle to Cradle final

NY’s historic Reforming the Energy Vision is surely providing a strong incentive for ConEd, changing the way utilities operate in the state. The state is moving deliberately away from the centralized utility model toward distributed energy.

As of 2014, NY has 397 MW of solar – almost half added last year – and another 250 MW expected this year. 89 MW are residential, 49 MW commercial and  9 MW  utility scale, according to Solar Energies Industry Association. There are 538  companies in the value chain in the state, employing over 7,300 people.

Solar leasing is by far the program of choice for residential solar, accounting for 72% of the 1.2 GW installed in the US last year, according to GTM Research. But with solar costs plummeting, that’s not expected to last. By 2020, over 50% of systems will be owned by homeowners.

Read our articles, It’s a First: California Rules Bring Rooftop Solar to Electricity Markets and Utilities Get Paid to Build Out Washington State’s Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure.

In related news, SunPower just bought 1.6 GW of solar projects in 11 states from Infigen Energy, an Australian developer. SunPower is the second largest solar installer in the US.

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