PG&E tops PV charts for US utilities

Pacific Gas & Edison in 2013 easily defended its title as the US utility that added the most solar capacity to its network, while three others – Duke Energy Progress, National Grid, and Georgia Power – joined the top 10 for the first time.

It was the sixth straight year that San Francisco-based PG&E topped the list, compiled annually by the Solar Power Electric Association.

PG&E, one of the largest regulated US utilities, serving 15 million customers across northern and central California, added 1.47GW of solar capacity last year, blowing its closest rival – San Diego Gas and Electric, which added 643MW – out of the water.

Not including its large hydro portfolio, PG&E derived 22.5% of its power from renewables last year, led by wind (6%), solar (5%) and geothermal (5%).

Following San Diego Gas and Electric was the number-three performer, Arizona Public Service, which absorbed all of the 417MW of new PV capacity added last year in Arizona – the second largest solar state in the US after California.

Most – but not all – of the utilities on the list serve states with mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standards. Among the exceptions was Georgia Power Company, whose 59MW performance in 2013 was good for a ninth-place finish – its first time in the top 10.

One of the fastest gainers on SEPA’s list was UK-based National Grid, whose position in the fast-growing northeastern US solar market saw it add 111MW of PV capacity last year – good enough for a sixth place finish on SEPA’s list.

While San Diego Gas and Electric perennially trails the much-larger PG&E in terms of overall solar capacity added, SDG&E put up nearly twice as much capacity on a per-customer basis.

SDG&E added 461 watts of PV capacity per customer last year, the second best performance among US utilities – and behind only the tiny Sterling Municipal Light Department, a Massachusetts utility with less than 4,000 customers.

On a per-customer basis, SDG&E came out well ahead of rivals like Arizona Public Service (368W/customer), PG&E (281W/customer) – and a long list of high-PV penetration utilities in Hawaii, including Hawaiian Electric and Maui Electric.

Several of the utilities on the list – including Arizona Public Service – have lobbied for changes to the Net Metering schemes that have driven the residential PV markets in their states.