As had been the case the previous year, San Diego attained the number two spot, after Los Angeles, in overall solar capacity in the second annual survey of major U.S. cities (65 in all), called Shining Cities, published earlier this Spring by the Sacramento-based Environment California Research & Policy Center.
The other three top five cities were Phoenix, Indianapolis and San Jose. In addition, according to an Environment California press release, San Diego exceeded Los Angeles in the growth of solar power capacity, as it installed 42 megawatts of solar power in 2014, as opposed to 34 MW for Los Angeles. The document also revealed that the city came in fourth in solar-per-capita, behind Honolulu, Indianapolis and San Jose. San Diego is also among the group of cities that Environment California calls its “Solar Stars”: that is, the 14 cities that can claim 50 or more watts of installed solar PV capacity per person.
Although it would seem only natural that a sunny city such as San Diego would be a solar leader, Dan Jacobson, a program manager at Environment California, was quoted as claiming that sunshine had little to do with it. “The reason San Diego is in such good shape for solar is that [the city has] done such a good job of making it financially attractive,” Jacobson said. For example, multifamily housing complexes can gain special solar incentives, and home loans are available for the installation of solar systems that can be repaid through property tax assessments. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said: “Solar energy is a key element to the City’s proposed Climate Action Plan, which calls for 100 percent renewable energy use in the City by 2035.”
However, the Environmental California release also notes that utilities throughout the country are “campaigning intensely” to slow solar adoption by increasing fees for solar households, seeing the phenomenon as a “direct threat to their business model.” An executive with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), James Avery, claims that, though his utility does not oppose solar power, solar adoption makes the grid harder to run, and solar customers pay less towards maintaining it. However, this infographic by Vote Solar, based on a published report, suggests that for California energy users in general, benefits to the grid through net metering outweigh costs by over $92 million.