The Future in Community Solar

by Deedee Chao

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is the first of California’s major utilities to enhance community solar programs; customers who are unable to install their own solar panels will still be able to draw their electricity directly from solar sources. Named Solar Choice, customers can choose to pay a premium of approximately 3 cents per kilowatt-hour to have half or all of their electricity come from solar. This new program opens up a new market and was created in response to high demand: over half of PG&E’s customers responded to a survey, saying they wanted to go solar, but could not implement it themselves. Solar Choice is a streamlined process for customers to go from traditional power to renewables, without having to do any installations or solar contracts themselves. This allows for easy buy-in, participation, and support for renewables, all at the cost of a few cents per kilowatt-hour. This premium is extracted primarily to ensure that non-solar customers don’t pay extra for their electricity; this suggests that the more participation there is, the lower the premium will be, making solar more affordable as demand increases. Never before in California has the process of switching to solar been so painless.

Of course, Solar Choice is only available to those within PG&E’s service area. The good news, however, is that Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) are both planning to launch similar programs this year, and SDG&E already has their program designed and introduced on their website. Called Connected to the Sun, SDG&E customers can choose to use either local solar or third-party solar developers for a proportion or all of their energy usage. If all of these programs get up and running, then solar will become available to the vast majority of California residents and businesses, making it easier to go renewable than ever.


Connected to the Sun. San Diego Gas & Electric. (


Pyper, Julia. 2016. PG&E Launches Community Solar Program Enabling Customers to Go 100% Renewable. February 5, 2016. (


Solar Choice. Pacific Gas & Electric. (



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