For Immediate Release: November 13, 2019

SMUD responds to California Energy Commission’s deferral on community solar program

Program would provide more solar options and increased renewable power sources

SMUD CEO and General Manager Arlen Orchard released the following statement in response to the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) delay of SMUD’s Neighborhood SolarShares program proposal that would provide solar to new home developments through off-site solar projects. This community solar program would provide new home developers with the ability to deliver the environmental benefits of solar energy, without installing it on every rooftop.

“We are extremely disappointed that the CEC deferred action on our Neighborhood SolarShares program. As confirmed by CEC staff, our program proposal met all the requirements of the 2019 Building Standards and provides an important compliance option for builders. Our goal has always been to increase renewable energy sources such as solar, and our program provided flexibility to builders to increase solar use in our communities. The state of California and the Sacramento region are facing an affordable housing crisis and our low-cost solar option provides a valuable tool to lower the construction costs of new homes while supporting carbon reduction goals. 

“While we are disappointed, we are committed to this program and will continue to work with CEC to refine the definition of ‘community’ to ensure that the benefits of solar energy can be fully realized while continuing to support affordable housing in the Sacramento region. To date, 87 percent of our solar resources for this program are within of our service territory and our community.

“We are committed to solar energy and have aggressive carbon reduction goals. In order to meet those goals, we must utilize all available options. This program is just one complementary option to rooftop solar.” 

SMUD’s Neighborhood SolarShares program is intended to provide a compliance option to the new home marketplace.  The program includes a 20-year agreement with the developer where SMUD provides solar energy to customers from solar arrays connected to the grid. Occupants of the homes must participate in the program until the 20-year term is over and will receive an annual net benefit of about $20 a year.  

Eighty-seven percent of the solar provided to the program comes from within SMUD’s service territory including the new construction of 160 megawatts (MW) at Rancho Seco and 13 MW in Natomas.

Benefits of SMUD’s Neighborhood SolarShares program include:

  • Removing the long-term maintenance and replacement cost risks of rooftop solar.
  • Allowing for “tree-friendly” developments— keeping the canopy, while increasing shade, and reducing energy usage for home cooling.
  • Guaranteed monthly solar energy for 20 years, even during rainy periods or cloudy weather that does not deteriorate over time like output from rooftop solar systems.

SMUD’s Neighborhood SolarShares program also provides community environmental benefits:

  • Community solar systems are more economical: They deliver more energy per dollar spent on the generation system— effectively maximizing a community’s clean energy investment.
  • Community solar systems are well-maintained and monitored, and can be easily oriented to provide more clean solar energy at times when the solar energy is more valuable.

Although this program is a first-of-its-kind for developers, SMUD has been providing SolarShares for commercial and residential customers for years. In fact, SMUD’s commitment to solar and other renewable energy sources dates back decades. SMUD developed the world’s first commercial-scale solar photovoltaic power plant in 1984; the first solar-powered electric vehicle charging station in the western United States in 1992, and the first net-zero energy community in midtown Sacramento, featuring rooftop solar and batteries.

SMUD has supported and incented the growth of the rooftop solar industry for many years.

To date, 210 MW of customer-owned rooftop solar has been installed in SMUD’s service area, and our energy portfolio includes over 170 MW of utility-scale solar. Over the next three years, SMUD will bring nearly 270 MW of new utility-scale solar online. Our recently-adopted Integrated Resource Plan includes over 1,500 MW of added utility-scale solar and we expect to reach over 500 MW of customer-installed solar over the next 20 years. Nearly 1,000 MW of the new utility-scale solar is planned to be built locally. SMUD is also spending over $20 million in the next few years on distribution system software and infrastructure to be able to manage and accommodate the expected increases in renewable energy resources such as rooftop solar.

About SMUD 

As the nation’s sixth-largest community-owned, not-for-profit, electric service provider, SMUD has been providing low-cost, reliable electricity for more than 70 years to Sacramento County and small adjoining portions of Placer and Yolo Counties. SMUD is a recognized industry leader and award winner for its innovative energy efficiency programs, renewable power technologies, and for its sustainable solutions for a healthier environment. SMUD’s power mix is about 50 percent non-carbon emitting. For more information, visit