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Fees on solar power could rise this summer

Posted: 6:59 PM, Apr 12, 2016
Updated: 2016-04-13 17:27:01Z

San Diegans who are on the fence about solar power may want to act fast, or they could be faced with hundreds of dollars in new fees when they put the panels on their rooftops.

Encinitas resident Gerry McCarthy got his solar panels installed Tuesday. He's going to get the best bang for his solar buck because he'll avoid charges San Diego Gas & Electric may tack on later this year.

"Then the cost would stretch out," McCarthy said. "Instead of getting my money back in six or seven years, it would be 10 or 12."

Solar power is popular in San Diego County, especially in inland areas like Poway, Scripps Ranch and eastern Chula Vista.

SDG&E expects solar to make up five percent of the county's energy this summer. That would trigger two new charges -- an estimated $130 for a hook up, and a 2-cent-per-kilowatt deduction for energy the panels feed into the grid.

All the extra money could slow the rise for everyone else's energy bills, but it could cost solar users hundreds of dollars each year. SDG&E still projects that annual utility bills for non-solar users will rise $300 by 2025.

"The five percent's close," McCarthy said. "Everybody was like right on the edge, so I wanted to get it in time."

For those looking to get in, SDG&E offers a 24-hour activation service that relies on smartphone photos of key equipment and blueprints. But the systems themselves don't go in overnight.

"You have to get permits, you have to secure your equipment; that can be roughly three to four weeks," said Daniel Sullivan, president of Sullivan Solar Power.

Solar can cost about $25,000, but tax credits and financing are available.

It's uncertain when the fees will hit, but McCarthy said the future is bright.

"When it's hot, that sun is up at 6 o'clock, and it comes this way, and it's there until 7 o'clock, 8 o'clock every day," he said.