Solar City, the largest US provider of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, is to resume planned installations of energy storage systems in California after a row over utility fees.
In 2013 the firm began a battery lease programme for its solar customers in California and New England. The programme featured a 10-year contract with zero up-front cost, on the assumption that customers would save more per month on demand charges than the cost of the storage system.
But according to reports, in March 2014 the firm stopped applying to install and connect energy storage systems in California due to time-consuming application processes and the high fees charged by utilities.
The state’s Public Utilities Commission now says energy storage systems will be exempt from the charges, which include connection fees of up to $800.
“When we first started it wasn’t clear to us that these fees would be charged,” said Peter Rive, Solar City’s chief commercial officer. “We’re happy with the decision.”
California utilities such as San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) have opposed the exemptions for storage systems. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) said the exemptions should apply only to residential customers and just for a trial period.
Solar City argues that energy storage will be beneficial to utilities in dealing with renewable energy sources coming onto the grid.
“There are massive benefits to including this storage on the grid,” Rive said. “There’s a misconception that we want to remove people from the grid. There’s a positive network benefit from storage.”