Does it Make Sense to Go Solar Everywhere in California?

The Big Three

If you've lived in California for some time, you've probably come across the acronyms for its three largest investor owned utilities (IOUs). IOUs are private utility providers beholden to their shareholders. Because of this relationship, these utilities, like any for profit business, put an emphasis on getting the most out of their customers (called ratepayers). They are the most expensive utilities in California, and typically 50% or more higher than the national average. They are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Publicly owned utilities (POUs) are non-profit utilities owned by municipalities, irrigation districts, or city departments. Their rates are far less than those of IOUs.

Southern California Edison (SCE), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) make up California's big three. If you live in an area where the only choice you have for power is one of the big three, congratulations, you are very likely a good candidate for solar. You are a good candidate because your rates are high and these utilities (thanks to the California state law and the CPUC) offer net energy metering. Net metering is simply the system that tracks the surplus electricity your solar panels produce as stored energy credits to use at night or on cloudy days.

I Don't Live in a Big Three Territory

If you don't live in one of the big three's territories, congratulations, your rates are relatively low compared to your big three neighbors. But that doesn't mean solar might not make sense for you. While many of the incentives, such as cash rebates, are drying up for these POUs, some are still available. Call or check your local utility's website for solar rebate information. At the same time, a lot of these utilities' rates continue to rise while the price of solar decreases. It is making more and more sense to go solar even with POUs that don't offer rebates.

One more thing. Some utilities don't offer net metering at all or only at certain times. You'll need to check with your POU for when they'll open solar back up. The beginning of the calendar year is usually a safe bet.

If you are unsure about your utility and if you'd like to get some answers about whether or not solar would be a good fit for you and yours, please contact SOLARFORNIA. It'd be our pleasure to look into it for you.