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Ultimate 2020 Solar Power Guide in the Inland Empire, California: Everything homeowners need to know

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

Everything homeowners needs to know about solar panels, home batteries, incentives, and the utilities in the Inland Empire
Ultimate 2020 Inland Empire Solar Power and Battery Guide

Solar In the Inland Empire 

When people think of Southern California, they usually think of the beaches of San Diego or the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles. They might not know that the Inland Empire is one of the nation's largest metropolitan regions and is home to nearly 4 million people. Like its neighbors in Los Angeles and San Diego, the Inland Empire has become a solar hot spot because of its ample sun exposure and expensive utility rates. As a result, homeowners can save tremendous amounts of money by switching to solar power. Let's dive into everything a homeowner needs to know before making the switch to solar. 

What utility covers The Inland Empire? 

Because the Inland Empire covers Riverside, San Bernardino, Ontario, Palm Springs, and the Coachella Valley, multiple utilities cover the IE. Southern California Edison (SCE) is the largest and the one this article focuses on, but if you are Riverside Public Utilities (RPU), Banning Electric Utility, or any other, much of this information will still apply.

Please make sure you inform our Alchemy Solar Consultant about your utility before your consolation. 

What are Southern California Edison (SCE) electricity rates?

Like many other utilities, Southern California Edison has different factors determining the rates an individual will pay. Even if the rates vary somewhat, the Net Energy Metering structure is the same for all homeowners: for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) that a customer sends to the grid, they will receive a bill credit equal to the value of that kWh.

If you are looking for the most up to date breakdown of the rates, the SCE website has information for the current residential customers.

Do SCE customers have access to a solar program?

Homeowners in the Inland Empire who are SCE customers have access to Net Energy Metering 2.0 (NEM). NEM 2.0 provides homeowners with a bill credit equal to the retail value of a kilowatt-hour for each (kWh) that a customer sends to the grid.

Like the other two investor-owned utilities in California Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas and Electric, the SCEs net metering program is structured based on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) guidelines. 

For homeowners in the Inland Empire, NEM 2.0 means

  1. Credits for exported electricity- Full retail rate

  2. Rate structure- All NEM 2.0 customers are on Time of Use rate structures

  3. Non-bypassable charges (NBCs)- Customer pays NBCs on all electricity that they utilize during a billing period

  4. System sizing- A system cannot be sized greater than a homes electrical needs, but a system can be as large as needed

  5. Interconnection fee- A one-time payment of $75 for residential customers

Solar customers in SCE do see some of the highest savings by switching to solar of California's utility. Switching over to solar is beneficial because SCE electricity rates are among the highest in California.

The TOU requirements of NEM 2.0 do mean that system design is especially important to ensure maximum production during the times of day when the solar credits are highest.

What solar panels should I install in the Inland Empire?

Because the Inland Empire has so much sun exposure, the type of panels a homeowner should pick comes down to needs and preferences. Some homeowners are willing to pay a premium for higher wattage efficiency panels because they have limited roof space or like the warranty. At the same time, others are more interested in the most cost-effective option. Because the IE has such a mature solar industry, panels are readily available, and multiple options can be discussed with an Alchemy Solar Consultant. 

How much energy can I get from solar in the Inland Empire?

Every home has different electrical needs, but a solar panel installation aims to offset a home's entire electrical needs. It is crucial to keep in mind that electrical needs may increase in the future as more homeowners purchase Electric Vehicles.

If a homeowner thinks they will be adding an electric vehicle or other high energy demand product shortly, make sure this is included in the calculation for sizing the solar system. 

Do solar-battery-storage systems make sense in the Inland Empire?

Under Southern California Edison's NEM 2.0 requirements, all homeowners who switch to solar power must transition to a Time Of Use utility rate structure. This means that SCE charges homeowners different amounts for electricity during different times of the day. Because of this, solar battery storage systems present Inland Empire homeowners with an exciting way to save more money on their utility bills.

With a home battery, homeowners can store solar energy in their battery and use it in the home when pulling electricity from the utility grid would be the most expensive. Solar energy storage can save a homeowner money and help them become more energy independent.

Home solar battery systems also provide an additional benefit to homeowners in Ontario and the surrounding area in the post COVID world. As many of us have shifted to working from home more frequently, the need to always keep the power on has also increased.

In addition to the cost savings, battery systems provide battery backup capabilities that keep a home safe during a power outage and ensure that homeowners can get their work done without interruption.  

What rebates and incentives are there in the Inland Empire for solar?

Solar incentives can come in many different forms, and SCE does have NEM 2.0 to improve the economics for homeowners who switch to solar. NEM 2.0 ensures that homeowners receive the full retail rate of any electricity that they export to the grid. This helps homeowners build up credits with the utility they can utilize at night or on cloudy days. 

The most significant incentive for Riverside and San Bernardino County is the Federal Investment Tax Credit or (ITC). The ITC provides homeowners who purchase a solar system with the ability to deduct 26 percent of the full cost of installing a solar energy system from their federal taxes. The ITC is stepping down to 22 percent in 2021 and disappearing completely for homeowners in 2022, so it is essential to take advantage of the Tax Credit before it goes away. 

Southern California Edison Federal Solar Tax Credit Step Down
SCE Federal Solar Tax Credit

Homeowners who add a solar-energy-storage system also have access to the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP). The SGIP is a rebate for home battery systems that can offset a few thousand dollars worth of the cost of installing the batteries.

Some solar companies claim that SCE has "special solar incentives"; this is not true. It is important to note that SCE does not have solar incentives for every homeowner. Additional incentives may be available depending on the financial needs of homeowners.

How long will a solar project take in Riverside, San Bernardino, or Ontario?

Solar projects require 6 easy steps after contract signing to get installed. approvals at a few different points during a project's competition. Like anything that requires approval from the utility or local permitting department, sometimes things can get delayed. The goal is to get the solar project completed as quickly as possible, and for an average project without any delay or required additional work, between contract signature and installation takes around sixty days on average. 

How long does a solar installation take in IE?

Most solar installations take two days. Some small systems can be installed in one day, and larger ones may take a few days. With solar batteries becoming more common, systems that include solar and battery storage may take longer than a solar-only installation. 

Inland Empire Solar Guide Conclusion

The Inland Empire has become one of California's leading solar regions for a reason! Not only can homeowners increase their homes' value by switching to solar, but they can also see substantial savings by producing their power instead of purchasing it from their utility.

The current solar incentives that make solar such an attractive option may not be around forever, so it is essential that homeowners interested in making the switch to solar start as soon as possible.

If you are an Inland Empire homeowner interested in learning more about residential solar, schedule a free consultation with Alchemy Solar today.

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