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San Diego Could Be Getting More Solar Power

— Solar backers and at least one member of the California Public Utilities Commission think there could be a lot more solar panels on roof tops around the state. The CPUC's Mike Peevey is asking regulators to change how utilities count the customers who sell power back into the grid, in a practice called "net metering."

Solar panels will power the buildings of the Imperial Valley Office of Education in El Centro.
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Above: Solar panels will power the buildings of the Imperial Valley Office of Education in El Centro.

Net metering is when customers generate electricity and sell it back to the grid. For solar customers, they send power to the grid during the day and pull power from the grid at night. When the CPUC allowed rooftop solar customers to sell extra power back to the grid, they put a limit on the amount of power generated by those net metering customers. Regulators wanted to see how the power grid would handle that power. That limit was 5 percent of peak power.

An existing cap limits the amount of power generated through net metering. San Diego leads the state in solar rooftop production, and is about halfway to the 5 percent cap. The change would alter the way utilities measure the cap.

"The utilities haven't been calculating that properly, and if they were to calculate it within the intent of the original law then we could actually achieve more than 2 gigawatts of net energy metered systems," Environment California's Michele Kineman said.

Rooftop solar generates about one gigawatt of power in California. Peak demand last year was 64 gigawatts.

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