- Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has announced a new program in which customers can pay an estimated $0.02 to $0.03 per kwh extra to guarantee their electricity is sourced from solar energy.
- The program, which it describes as a “green option” or “community solar, will offer options of 50% solar or 100% solar, with the premium proportionally applied to the bills of the customers who opt to participate. PG&E’s current power mix provides approximately 25% of customers’ electricity sourced from renewables and it must be 33% by 2020 as required by California’s renewables mandate.
- The program, just approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, will be available to customers later this year, according to the utility. PG&E said it will obtain the solar for the new program from new small and mid-sized solar projects built in its service area.
The program described by PG&E is a green power purchase program, and not the traditional conception of community solar. But no matter what it's called, the utility's customers will soon be able to choose 100% solar energy.
Another program will allow PG&E customers to contract with independent developers to obtain the output of a solar project and get bill credit. That would actually be community solar. But the CPUC has not finalized rules for such programs.
Community solar is a shared renewables program which allows “multiple customers to share the economic benefits from one renewable energy system via their individual utility bills,” according to a report from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and the Vote Solar Initiative.
Community solar is “a program through which individual members of a community have the opportunity to ‘buy in’ to a nearby solar installation…[and] receive a proportional share of the financial or energy output of the system,” according to the Solar Electric Power Association. “Community solar programs may be offered by electric utilities or through third-parties or community groups.”