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Monumental changes in solar market set to spur largest demand in history


East County News Service

Hear our interview with Erica Johnson, Sullivan Solar Power, on why some solar incentives will soon be going away as well as advice for consumers and ratepayers:

February 20, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)--The rules of solar are changing for California property owners, and property owners who wait for the future will not receive the favorable conditions of today.  The first region to lose incentives may be San Diego, where a cap on net metering is close to being attained later this year.

The billing arrangement that provides solar owners full retail credit for the energy they put on the grid, called net energy metering, is ending, leaders in the solar energy industry report. Industry experts suggest that homes and businesses that wait until the peak summer months to install a solar power system, will likely miss their chance.

“The upcoming changes for solar producers will undoubtedly create an unprecedented demand,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of locally-based Sullivan Solar Power, whose clientele includes UC San Diego, the Port of San Diego and San Diego State University. “Property owners that wait until June to sign up to go solar may miss their chance to receive the full retail credit that current solar producers receive.”

Net energy metering will end once a certain amount of solar is installed in each utility territory, and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) will be the first utility to reach its cap. Anyone that installs solar before the cap is hit will receive full retail credit for energy they produce, and will be grandfathered in for 20-years. Once net metering ends, new homes and businesses that install solar will receive less credit for the energy they produce.

“The period for going solar under the current net metering rules could end for SDG&E customers by December or even earlier, depending on how many people install solar this year,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA).

In order for property owners to get grandfathered in to current rules, the projects must be installed. A signed contract will not reserve a property’s space in the queue. Under normal market conditions, it takes an average of 120 days for a project to be delivered from the time paperwork is signed to installation completion. The solar industry is anticipating a bottleneck for installations, city permitting, and utility inspections.

“We are informing all San Diego property owners that are interested in going solar that they need to sign up by May in order to receive the current favorable rules and grandfathering protections,” said Sullivan, who has been providing solar to the region for a decade, “September is when there’s the greatest demand for solar, but it is unlikely that people who wait until then will be installed before the rules change.”

In addition to the local changes, solar policy is going to become less favorable on a national level as well. The tax credit, which covers 30 percent of a solar project, is currently the largest incentive available for property owners that invest in solar. The federal tax credit for solar is ending in 2016 for residential properties, and will be reduced to 10 percent for commercial property owners.

“The solar industry has been the fastest growing industry in the United States in the past two years,”  Erica Johnson with Sullivan Solar Power told ECM.  She encouraged the public to contact their federal legislators to ask that  the federal tax credit be extended.

The vanishing incentives are due largely to utility industry lobbying, said Johnson, who indicates that utilities prefer highly profitable industrial-scale desert solar or wind projects to rooftop solar.

“Given changes that will be coming next year and favorable conditions right now, there has never been a better time to go solar,” Del Chiaro concludes.

For additional information on the changing rules of solar in the San Diego market, call Sullivan Solar Power at 1-800-SULLIVAN or visit