Every year, the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) crowns the top U.S. utilities for solar, and with the release of its 10th annual utility market survey, the group has now launched additional rankings for the utilities leading on energy storage.
“One of the reasons we started the utility solar top 10 lists back in 2007 was to highlight the key, but often unrecognized, role utilities were taking in putting new solar on the grid,” explains SEPA President and CEO Julia Hamm. “With utility-scale solar now well established as a mainstream power source, we wanted to similarly recognize utilities’ leadership in realizing the full potential of storage to drive critical system changes that will benefit customers and the grid.”
SEPA explains the top 10 lists are based on data provided by 412 utilities, which together serve more than 90 million customers across the country, and the lists rank the leading U.S. utilities of 2016.
In terms of the most new megawatts of solar added in 2016, Southern California Edison (SCE) ranked No. 1 and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) ranked No. 2 – the same spots the two California utilities had on the first top 10 list in 2007, SEPA notes. However, the group points out that the number of megawatts each added has changed dramatically: SCE jumped from 409 MW in 2007 to 1,648 MW in 2016, while PG&E grew from 144.5 MW to 773 MW.
According to SEPA, the figures needed to make the top 10 list for new solar watts added per customer have also shot up. The City of Palo Alto Utilities ranked No. 5 in 2007 with 20.4 watts per customer; this year, it earned the No. 1 spot with 2,753 watts.
As for energy storage, Imperial Irrigation District (IID), a public power and water utility in Southern California, took the No. 1 spot on the top 10 list of new storage megawatts installed, adding 30 MW of storage in 2016. The Sterling Municipal Light Department, the municipal utility for the small town of Sterling, Mass., led the top 10 energy storage list for new watts per customer, with 533 watts added per customer.
“SCE is proud to be ranked No. 1 and recognized as a solar leader among utilities for the second year in a row and ranked No. 2 in storage capacity,” says Caroline Choi, SCE’s senior vice president of regulatory affairs. “These rankings reflect our employees’ efforts to make the clean, renewable energy our customers want more accessible. We’re committed to modernizing our system to meet our customers’ needs and to help California meet critical climate and air quality targets.”
“It’s a pivotal time for the energy industry,” states Vicken Kasarjian, energy manager for IID. “With the increase of variable renewable energy and distributed generation on the grid, battery storage can provide operational flexibility while increasing system reliability. It’s exciting to see it come to life in the Imperial Valley, with IID leading the way.”
SEPA notes that while California utilities continue to lead the nation in new megawatts of solar and storage, market growth in both sectors is spreading from west to east. On the new lists, utilities in North Carolina and Georgia took four spots on the top 10 for solar megawatts added, while utilities in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio took three spots on the top 10 for storage megawatts.
Charts courtesy of SEPA