Who’s the biggest solar integrator? Depends, says SEPA’s utilities rankings

From SEPA's Top 10 reportEvery year the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) tracks which utilities are integrating the most solar in the U.S. It released it’s list of top 10 American electric utilities on April 16 for integrating the most solar in 2012. It’s no surprise that, in terms of overall megawatts, some of the nation’s largest utilities were overall leaders in terms of the amount of solar added. But when you look at it in terms of solar per customer, it seems that a changing panoply of  municipal utilities are leading the way. 

The advocacy organization releases the top 10 list annually as sort of a preview to its annual “Utility Solar Rankings” report. That more comprehensive report is expected in May

“Utility companies across the nation are embracing clean energy solutions and showing their commitment to a more diverse energy portfolio improving the environment,” said Julia Hamm, president and CEO of SEPA. “We are impressed with the sheer number of new utilities that have moved into the Top 10 lists, particularly those who have never been ranked in the past and are now adopting solar as part of their energy mix, increasingly so as the price of solar power declines year-over-year.”

The utilities that made the top 10 list for megawatts installed in 2012 represent the overwhelming amount of new solar power brought online in 2012—73 percent of all new solar installed in the U.S. last year. “Among the top three in the Megawatt rankings are some of the nation's largest utilities—Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California, Southern California Edison and Public Service Electric & Gas Co., NJ—which often rank highly in this category due to their expansive customer solar programs and utility purchasing programs,” SEPA said.

“We are pleased at this significant recognition from SEPA and at the ongoing success of our efforts to help our customers enjoy the benefits of solar,” said Steve Malnight, Vice President for Customer Energy Solutions at PG&E. 

All of the top 10 megawatt installers were on the list last year, except for Progress Energy Carolinas, which integrated 65.9 megawatts of solar becoming the eighth largest installer. It’s the first time the utility made the list. Pacific Gas and Electric topped the list for the fifth time in a row, integrating 805.6 megawatts—over four times more than the second largest integrator, Southern California Edison, which integrated 194.6 megawatts last year. After that the megawatt difference between the top 10 is much closer. 

But the rankings also take into consideration how much solar a utility has integrated per customer in the past year. When looked at that way, only a couple of companies make both lists and PG&E is nowhere on it. The only companies to make both lists were Hawaiian Electric Company, which came in tenth for installing 65 megawatts last year, equating to 220 watts per customer, making it fourth on that list. The Tucson Electric Company also made both lists, integrating 73 megawatts, placing it seventh on the megawatt list, and on a per customer basis it integrated 182 watts per customer, making eighth on that list. 

In terms of watts per customer basis, the City of St Marys Municipal Electric System in Ohio led the pack, installing 563 watts per customer. “It is my opinion that the City of St. Mary’s should have a diverse energy portfolio embracing various technologies. I feel that Green Energy solutions, including solar power, offer our citizens clean and economical energy,” remarked Patrick McGowan, Mayor of the City of St. Mary’s, Ohio. St. Mary’s was followed by Kauai Island Utility Cooperative in Hawaii, which installed 282 watts per customer in 2012.