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Pico Rivera Approves Innovative Solar Energy Program for Residents and Developers

August 10, 2023

By Brian Hews

In early 2017, the Pico Rivera City Council established a Community Choice Aggregation Program (CCA) and named it Pico Rivera Innovative Municipal Energy (PRIME) with the goal to increase the amount of locally supplied renewable energy to Pico Rivera residents and provide long-term electricity cost savings; PRIME began providing power in September 2017.

Currently, there are over 200 cities and counties in California, with CCA energy providers generating more than 11,000 megawatts to over 14 million customers.

Using PRIME, the Pico Rivera City Council, at its last meeting, approved a innovative solar and battery program that will make solar energy and battery backup systems accessible to all Pico Rivera residents.

The system features zero upfront cost and no credit check, making it easier for all Pico Rivera households to install solar power and battery backup.

The council voted to approve the new entity, PRIME Power Choice Solar and Battery Program (PRIME-Power Choice) and authorized City Manager Steve Carmona to start negotiations for the proposed program.

“This innovative power solar and battery program reaffirms Pico Rivera’s commitment to green initiatives, environmental stewardship, and the betterment of its community,” said Carmona. “The program’s launch is a significant step towards a more sustainable and inclusive energy future, bolstering Pico Rivera’s position as a leader among environmentally progressive cities.”

Under the new program, PRIME-Power Choice and Pico Rivera will be working with local solar power providers and installers through a partnership with CalChoice, Participate.Energy, LLC (P.E.) and Tesla Energy Operations, Inc.

“Our partnership with our leading solar energy company partners has designed a unique power solution, breaking down the financial barriers that have previously prevented many households from accessing renewable energy resources. This pioneering program aims to ensure that every resident has the opportunity to take advantage of clean, renewable energy,” Carmona continued.

CalChoice will help the city navigate the regulatory hurdles inherent in establishing a distributed microgrid program. 

P.E. is responsible for funding, procuring, and managing the PRIME-Power Choice program, including ongoing operations.

Tesla Energy Operations, Inc. manufactures solar and battery equipment and will be responsible for designing, building, and installing residential roof solar and battery systems and will be responsible for the system’s operation and maintenance.

The city, through PRIME, will put its creditworthiness behind the program so credit scores are not an issue, and most everyone can qualify for Tesla systems. Additionally, PRIME will purchase the energy generated from solar and battery equipment and sell it to Power Choice participants at a competitive rate.

The customer contract between P.E., Tesla and PRIME offers no upfront costs, with a $115 monthly lease for the Tesla solar and battery system and a contract term between 25-30 years.

Program participants are responsible for keeping solar panels clear from obstructions and clean. i.e., trees trimmed and washing dirt off the panels. However, P.E. and Tesla are responsible for monitoring and maintaining the systems at no cost to the customer. This includes no-cost replacement of batteries, which have an operating life of 10 years.

Under PRIME-Power Choice Pico Rivera will comply with California’s 2020 mandate that all new single-family homes, condos and apartment buildings less than three stories high must be solar-powered requiring all new home builders purchase solar and battery equipment directly from Tesla, which will be installed by Tesla.

The program also addresses the current headaches with leased solar systems when homeowners move out. PRIME-Power Choice customers can either purchase the system before the sale of the home or transfer the contract to the new homebuyer.

But unlike standard solar financing programs, PRIME-Power Choice does not require an underwriting process or securing the loan against the title of the property; the new owner can take over the contract and move in with a fully functional solar energy system with significantly lower electricity rates.

Once the program is operational, developers and homeowners can apply on the city’s website at poweredbyprime.org. Upon completion, the information will be sent directly to Tesla, who will direct the developers and homeowners to the Tesla.com website; Tesla will be responsible for all installation-related work, including permitting.

In addition to having the ability to sell excess power, Pico Rivera will generate other revenue including $0.40 per watt for each installation of solar and battery systems, a $0.02 kWh fee operating the service, and $15 per month per battery installed.

Pico Rivera Mayor Erik Lutz told LCCN, “Our goal is to make sustainable energy inclusive and accessible to all our residents. Residents wanting to participate in this program can do so through a no-consumer credit check process and zero upfront cost. With this new program, we’re not just providing affordable power solutions; we’re also empowering our community to participate in sustainable living, helping to build a more sustainable future for all.”