Mainstream’s Peters said Southern California Edison is now rejecting systems that are identical to ones it had approved in the past. The developer had been installing two to three solar-storage projects a week in Southern California at the start of this year. That’s dropped to zero in recent weeks, and some orders have been canceled.
The dispute threatens the state’s $2 billion rooftop solar industry and indicates the depth of utilities’ concerns about consumers producing their own power. People with rooftop panels are already buying less electricity, and adding batteries takes them closer to the day they won’t need to buy from the local grid at all, said Ben Peters, a government affairs analyst at Mainstream Energy Corp., which installs solar systems.
Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) — Danny Kennedy, co-founder of Sungevity Inc., talks about the growth outlook for the solar-power industry.
Kennedy speaks with Tom Keene, Sara Eisen and Scarlet Fu on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance.” (Source: Bloomberg)
Although solar accounts for just 1 percent of the net electricity generated in the U.S., both residential and utility-scale projects are experiencing rapid growth. “This business will not go away. It’s here for the long term, and it will dramatically change, over time, the entire landscape here in terms of the electric-utility business,” says California Public Utilities Commission President Mark Peevey. In 2017, the 30 percent federal tax credit for rooftop solar systems will drop to 10 percent, but by that point it will be enough to keep solar competitive, he says.
Solar panel owners aren’t trying to “game the system,” said Adam Browning, executive director of the San Francisco-based lobbying group Vote Solar Initiative. “The next step is that people with solar and batteries will find a way to make it work without utilities.”
California’s three biggest utilities are sparring with their own customers about systems that store energy from the sun, opening another front in the battle that’s redefining the mission of electricity generators.