Solar panels on a San Diego home. Courtesy San Diego County News Center
Solar panels on a San Diego home. Courtesy San Diego County News Center

The San Diego region reached a milestone Wednesday of private, rooftop solar power equal to 5 percent of peak electricity demand.

San Diego Gas & Electric and major solar installers cheered the milestone in what has become a $1 billion local industry.

“We’ve known that San Diegans have been leading the solar revolution for over a decade, but reaching this landmark highlights the dedication our region has to clean and renewable energy,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder of Sullivan Solar Power, which has been installing solar systems since 2004.

Reaching the 5 percent level, which was a goal set by state law in 2013, means the rules for using private solar power are changing.

“Transitioning new private solar customers to the next phase of the Net Energy Metering program is another sign that our region is a leader in the clean energy movement,” said Caroline Winn, chief energy delivery officer for SDG&E. “Advancing clean energy solutions like solar and electric vehicle adoption is one way we’re working hard to provide our customers with more sustainable energy choices.”

Future customers will pay a fee for connecting solar panels to the power grid, face various state charges, and beginning in 2017 be billed according to time-of-day rates.

“Under the new rules, there is no limit to the amount of people who can go solar, but many of the traditional benefits of going solar have changed,” said Sullivan.

There are now more than 90,000 private solar rooftop installations in SDG&E’s service area.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.