Top Utilities Expand Solar Integration by 66 Percent

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SEPA annual survey touts nationwide strength in solar portfolios; Key Findings: • Nation’s solar growth concentrated among the ten utilities with the most solar electricity integrated into their energy portfolios • Increasing solar activity outside of the top-ranked utilities • Utilities’ solar portfolios on the cusp of significant changes

One thing is clear from these results. Now is a great time to take another look at solar electric power. If a utility’s pricing perceptions are even 12 months old, they are out of date.

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), an educational and research non-profit focused on helping utilities integrate solar into their energy portfolios, today released its third-annual Top Ten Utility Solar Rankings. Pacific Gas & Electric Company of California (PG&E) topped the list of utilities with the most solar megawatts (MW) added to the grid for the second straight year with 85.2 MW, but new additions to the list and overall growth in solar integration by utilities defined 2009, according to the report.

The Top Ten utilities’ solar megawatts added to the grid grew from 169 MW in 2008 to 279 in 2009, a growth of 66 percent in a year when electricity demand as a whole declined as the result of an economic downturn. These ten utilities represented 80 percent of the survey total and are a focal point for the nation’s solar activity. The results of SEPA’s research suggest that this growth was sparked in part by a drop in price for photovoltaic modules and systems worldwide.

“One thing is clear from these results,” said SEPA Executive Director Julia Hamm. “Now is a great time to take another look at solar electric power. If a utility’s pricing perceptions are even 12 months old, they are out of date.”

Joining the Top Ten this year (included below) are Florida Power & Light Company at number 4 (29.5 MW, not ranked in 2008), Salt River Project at number 8 (5.8 MW, ranked 25th in 2008) in Arizona, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at number 10 (4.889 MW, ranked 12th in 2008).

However, utilities across the country are strengthening their solar portfolios, according to SEPA’s survey results. The Top Ten utilities’ share of overall solar generation in the survey actually dropped from 88 percent in 2008 to 80 percent in 2009, indicating increasing solar activity by utilities outside of the Top Ten.

“We’re very excited to see some new names on this year’s list, along with the traditional solar utility leaders,” said Hamm. “We congratulate all our Top Ten utilities for their ongoing commitment to solar power – an energy source that’s both clean and increasingly cost effective.”

As part of its analysis of the solar utility market, SEPA also controls for the size of a utility’s customer base and presents a Top Ten list based on the solar watts-per-customer of participating utilities (included below). That list also features newcomers this year. Specifically, Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative in Arizona – unranked in 2008 – took the top spot in 2009, with 56 watts-per-customer. Also making the leap into the Top Ten this year were The City of Santa Clara/Silicon Valley Power (22.3 watts-per-customer), and Southern California Edison (15.3 watts-per-customer). Only Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric made both annual ranking lists.

One of the report’s key conclusions is that utilities’ solar portfolios are on the cusp of significant changes. Traditionally, solar electric markets have been distributed, consumer-focused, and solar industry driven but 2009 marked the beginning of change in market dynamics. The 2009 rankings were impacted in part by several centralized or aggregated distributed solar projects that were built or began construction, and several utilities that were directly involved in owning new solar projects. Installations on the utility side of the meter increased 267 percent from around 18 MW in 2008 to 65 MW in 2009 and made up 19 percent of the survey’s total, up from 9 percent the previous year.

SEPA released the “Top Ten” rankings at its annual Utility Solar Conference (USC). USC brings together utility decision-makers and select industry sponsors to develop greater understanding of solar power within the utility world.

ABOUT SEPA
The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) is a non-profit dedicated to helping utilities integrate solar power into their energy portfolios. With more than 700 utility and solar industry members, SEPA provides unbiased utility solar market intelligence, up-to-date information about technologies and business models, and peer-to-peer interaction. From hosting national events to one-on-one counseling, SEPA helps utilities make smart solar decisions. For more information, visit http://www.solarelectricpower.org.

Contact:
Don Lintvet
(202) 559-2024

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