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The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) says California-based Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in its latest ranking of the top solar utilities in the U.S.

With California as the perennial solar power hotbed, perhaps the more compelling story is that of New Jersey-based Public Service Electric and Gas Co. (PSE&G), which ranks third among utilities for the amount of solar capacity added within its electric service area in 2012. This is the fourth consecutive year that PSE&G has ranked in the top three among U.S. utilities for solar integration.

According to SEPA, 144.5 MW of solar capacity was installed in PSE&G's service area last year. The utility's Solar 4 All and Solar Loan programs built or helped finance about 39 MW of capacity in 2012, or more than 25% of the total. PSE&G electric customers installed the remaining solar capacity independently and interconnected it to the PSE&G electric grid.

"The fact that we have been in the top three of the SEPA rankings for four consecutive years shows that New Jersey businesses and homeowners continue to support clean energy solutions," says Joe Forline, PSE&G's vice president of customer solution. "Thanks to smart public policy and programs like our Solar 4 All and Solar Loan initiatives, New Jersey remains a center for solar power."

Solar 4 All will put 80 MW of solar power in service by mid-2013 using both large-scale centralized solar installations and pole-attached solar units in the more than 300 towns in PSE&G's electric service territory. By taking advantage of previously untapped resources - space on utility poles, unused brownfields, landfills and flattop roofs - PSE&G is adding a considerable amount of solar capacity while preserving New Jersey's open space.

The Solar Loan program is making $247 million in financing available for qualified residential and non-residential solar projects in PSE&G electric service territory. The loan program helps to remove the financial barriers to solar installations by providing a source of financing for about 50% of the project cost and allows customers to use theĀ  solar credits (SRECs) that the systems generate to repay the loan.

Overall, U.S. utilities integrated nearly 1.5 GW of solar power into their grids last year.

"Both the number of systems and the amount of new capacity made solar electricity the fastest growing electric source in the U.S. in 2012," says Julia Hamm, president and CEO of SEPA.

The remaining top 10 utilities include the following: Arizona Public Service, NV Energy, Jersey Central Power & Light, Tucson Electric Power Co., Progress Energy Carolinas, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Hawaiian Electric Co.

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