San Diego Utility Grid Becoming Obsolete As Thousands Defect to Solar
We read a great article the other day about whether or not the utility grid could one day become optional.

As more homeowners and businesses embrace distributed technologies like solar energy, traditional power generation is becoming obsolete.

That article, Will the Electricity Grid Become Optional? makes a pretty compelling case – one that closely mirrors our own reporting on the death spiral of utilities like SDG&E.

The question isn’t whether utility grids become obsolete or not.  The question is how quickly will we be able to unplug completely and be done with fossil fuel.

Before answering that, let’s look at the current state of affairs.

The Current State of Solar Energy and the San Diego Utility Grid

In San Diego, the overwhelming majority of solar installations are tied directly to the grid.  Through an ingenious program known as net metering, solar PV system owners are allowed to:

  • Sell their excess solar electricity to the utility company during the day (when prices are at their highest)
  • Buy back the electricity they need at night (when their panels stop working and utility rates go down)

At the end of each billing cycle, these solar PV owners are only responsible for the net difference in electricity bills.  Some solar customers have very small fees.  Others enjoy $0 utility bills.  And still others receive negative bills – i.e. SDG&E owes these lucky homeowners credits.

Needless to say, San Diego’s net metering program is awesome – for everyone involved.

The utility companies benefit from:

  • Lower costs since people all over the County are feeding clean electricity into the grid.  SDG&E doesn’t have to buy (or burn) nearly as much oil, gas, and coal.
  • Greater predictability. Daytime (or “peak”) usage is precisely when solar panels produce the most energy.  It’s also when utility companies are at their busiest.

There are great benefits for businesses & homeowners as well, including:

  • Fewer storage costs.  Rather than buy expensive batteries, solar PV customers can use the entire utility grid as de facto storage.
  • Faster payback periods.  Solar customers are able to earn higher returns from their investments since they get to sell excess electricity to the utility company.

And let’s not forget the environmental benefits that we all get to enjoy.  Solar is clean and renewable.  Simply awesome.

But believe it or not, the utility companies aren’t happy about this shift towards solar.  All over the world, they’re fighting tooth and nail to kill green incentives, raise rates, and make solar energy less affordable than it already is.

Right here in San Diego, utilities have waged a constant war on renewable energy.  We’ve consistently defeated them in the past and hope that these successes continue.  But SDG&E & company are organized and well-financed.  Plus – they have a lot of bargaining power since solar and non-solar customers alike still rely heavily on the existing power grid.

As long as we remain dependent on net metering and grid connectivity, the utilities will always have a few aces up their sleeves.

But – the trend is changing.  Very quickly in fact.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at some of the more exciting developments happening in the solar industry – especially within the realm of on-site storage.

In the meantime, feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.  All consultations and solar quotes are free.

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