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San Diego First To Hit Solar Power Cap In California

Photo by Mathieu Young/Courtesy of Off-Grid Electric

This undated photo shows a man holding a solar panel on a roof. Panels are part of Off-Grid's solar energy kit.

The city has reached the 5 percent limit on the amount of electricity utilities have to buy back from customers. As a result, new residential solar customers face extra charges.

San Diego on Wednesday became the first city in California to reach the cap on the amount of electricity utilities have to buy back from customers. And the new rules come with extra costs for consumers.

For residents who still plan to hook up solar panels to the grid, the good news is San Diego Gas & Electric will continue to buy back electricity.

RELATED: San Diego And California Get High Marks On Green Index

“We are going to continue to buy back power at the retail rate, but what’s changing is there will be a fee for interconnecting solar panels to the reliable power grid," said Amber Albrecht, a spokeswoman for SDG&E. "That’s a one-time fee. Future customers in the program will also contribute to state mandated and lower-income energy efficiency programs.”

The utility estimates the charges add an extra $115 a year over the 20-year life of a residential installation.

In 2013, state legislature limited the amount of solar power utilities had to buy from their customers to 5 percent of its total power during peak hours. The new regulations will be in effect through at least 2019.

The utility believes the added charges won't be enough to deter the residential solar installations, Albrecht said.

The installation company Sullivan Solar Power estimates that solar power has become a $1 billion-a-year industry in San Diego.

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