By Anna Rumor, The Desert Sun
The Imperial Irrigation District has suspended subscriptions to one of its solar incentive programs, a move green energy proponents say will deter the growth of sustainable energy in east Coachella Valley
The Net Energy Metering Program measures the ebb and flow of power produced by a customer's solar panels during the day in comparison to the power they use when the sun is shining. The difference between the two is used to generate the customer's bill. At the end of the year, if a customer's accumulated power generation exceeds their consumption, IID will pay them 5.72 cents per kilowatt-hour their solar panels added to IID's electricity grid.
The program currently has 2,589 solar customers and paid out $63,406 in 2015, according to IID.
Because the program has reached the state-legislated metering capacity — 5 percent of the utility's peak demand — IID announced Wednesday it will no longer be approving new applicants. The utility met 82 percent of its capacity at the end of February, but said it will reach 100 percent once all current solar projects go on line.
That 5 percent calculation, however, isn't regulated for municipal utilities the same way it is for large electrical corporations such as Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric, which are required to use a standard equation statewide.
IID spokeswoman Marion Champion said only those customers who generate much more power than they use will really see a difference now that the program has been suspended, because most solar systems are built at an appropriate size. SCE, which has installed 163,777 net energy meters as of January, plans to meet its 5 percent cap in 2017. SDG&E has installed 81,319 meters and still has 15 percent of available wattage before it reaches the cap.
"The intent of today's action in no way is meant to stymie or deter people from going solar," Champion said. "We definitely don't want to slow down the solar industry."