What happened when IID changed net metering

The home of Maggie Rodriguez is seen with solar panels covering much of the roof in Indio, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022.

The sunny southeastern corner of California seems like a natural place for the adoption of rooftop solar systems. But in the past few years, the number of residents putting panels on their homes has plummeted.

In 2016, 1,696 residential solar systems were installed by homeowners served by the Imperial Irrigation District — a utility that serves Imperial County, a small portion of San Diego County and the Coachella Valley cities of Indio, Coachella, La Quinta, and parts of Palm Desert. In 2017, that number dropped to 707, then dropped further to 262 in 2018 and 229 in 2019.

Why? In 2016, IID lowered the rate it pays solar customers to buy back excess electricity from the grid. 

Meanwhile, adjacent cities served by Southern California Edison — which did not lower rates — solar installations continued at a brisk pace. Palm Springs alone has a total of 5,554 installations, and Cathedral City has 4,155, compared to a total of 5,714 in all of IID territory at the end of 2021. 

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