California Continues To Lead U.S. Solar & Net Metering Growth

February 03, 2009 by Jeff Shepard

California continued to lead the deployment of solar photovoltaics (PV) and net metering in the United States during 2008, with installations during the year double that of 2007. According to the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) latest report on the California Solar Initiative (CSI), during 2008 homeowners, businesses and local governments in California’s investor-owned utility (IOU) territories installed 158 MW of distributed, grid-tied solar PV projects – just over double the 78 MW installed in the IOU territories in 2007. This brings the cumulative total of grid-tied solar PV statewide in California since the early 1980s to 441 MW – the highest level of solar installations in the country.

Nor is the pace expected to slow during 2009, given that demand for incentives under the CSI surged in the fourth quarter of 2008, breaking the previous records for most applications in a single quarter and most applications in a single month. In that quarter the CSI program received 3,590 applications for new projects, up on the record for new applications set in the previous quarter by nearly 20%, and of these more than 1,300 applications were received during December alone.

The CPUC attributes this surge in demand probably to the news in October 2008 that the Federal government was extending tax credits for solar as part of the Economic Stimulus package. The tax credits had been slated to expire at the end of 2008, so a large number of projects pushed to come online in 2008 in order to secure the tax credit before expiration. When the tax credits were extended, they were also significantly expanded for residential system owners, spurring new demand in solar projects, especially in the residential sector.

In total more than 6,400 applications for new projects are pending with the CSI, with a capacity of 169 MW. The CPUC says the CSI program remains roughly on target to meet the state’s goal of 1,750 MW installed by 2017.

These solar customers also make up the majority of net metering customers in the state. Together the three IOUs have almost 42,000 solar customer generators with a generating capacity of 426MW.

"Our report outlines the great strides we have made with solar power in California and demonstrates the commitment the state and its consumers have to clean energy," said CPUC President Michael R. Peevey.