The recent announcement by California's Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. (PG&E) that it would be partnering with SunRun, San Francisco, to provide homeowners with residential systems using power purchasing agreements is another example of the growing popularity of this business model. PG&E is investing $100 million to help pay for the installation of more than 3,500 home photovoltaic arrays.

The investment, principally funded by PG&E Corp. shareholders through Pacific Energy Capital, creates the largest residential solar financing vehicle established to date. Under the agreement, Pacific Energy Capital will provide financing for the rooftop energy systems and both parties will receive payments from SunRun customers. SunRun will manage the projects.

The solar systems funded under the agreement are expected to be installed in 2010 and 2011 in at least five states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts and New Jersey. SunRun currently serves more than 4,000 customers in these five states, and is growing 500 percent year-over-year.

In a press release announcing the agreement, Brian Steel, PG&E's senior director of corporate strategy and development, said, “As a company in a region where distributed solar is becoming increasingly important, we are focused on continuing to take advantage of smart, strategic opportunities that enable us to acquire an in-depth understanding of this market and these technologies. Our investment with SunRun reflects this ongoing effort. Additionally, it allows us to continue supporting the advance of renewable energy, which is a priority for our company, utility customers and policymakers.”