01/04/23

  05:57:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1512 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Residential Solar, Net Metering, Solar Storage

NEM 3.0 is the Law - Here's What You Need to Know!

TL;DR: NEM 3.0 will drastically lower payback rates in SCE territory
Act before April 14th to lock-in the better rates of the current rules!


(NB: If you are NOT an SCE customer, you can ignore this entirely as it won’t affect you at all!)

In December, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) unanimously approved the Net Energy Metering (NEM) 3.0 proposed decision, making it the law in the territories serviced by the three Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) - PG&E, SDG&E, and SCE.  While the final rules aren’t as bad as they started out to be (more on that below), they are still a disaster for the industry.  Here’s our take…

NEM Today…

NEM is the policy that allows solar power system owners to be compensated for the energy that they export to the grid.  Typically, because energy use at home is lower during the day, while your solar system is producing its greatest amount of energy, that energy goes back onto the grid, where the utility then sells it to your neighbor, just as if they had generated it themselves.  But the utility didn’t need to incur any cost to generate that energy, so it is only fair and right that the customer who had invested in that solar power system should be compensated for the excess they provide to the grid.

NEM has had two distinct iterations in IOU territory.  The original form of NEM was full retail compensation - that is, the utility customer was credited one-for-one for the energy that they export.  Since that is the same amount that the utility gets to charge the neighbor receiving that energy, the transaction is essentially a push for the utility.  While that is still the case with the municipal utilities like PWP and LADWP, it is no longer the case with the IOUs in general and SCE in particular.

Back in 2017, the CPUC rolled out NEM 2.0 - and while it was a disappointing departure from full-retail NEM, it wasn’t as bad as the IOUs wanted.  Instead, the changes added a one-time interconnection fee ($75 in SCE territory), required solar customers to be placed on Time-of-Use rates (as opposed to the more economically beneficial tiered rates), and introduced the concept of Non-Bypassable Charges which reduced the value of exported energy by a little over two cents per kWh.  (You can read my post explaining NEM 2.0 here.)  Existing NEM customers were “grandfathered” in for twenty years, thereby guaranteeing that they would retain the value of their investment.

However, that wasn’t the end of the IOU’s war against rooftop solar.  It was understood that there would be a subsequent rulemaking - NEM 3.0 - and the IOUs vowed to bring solar to heel when that rulemaking rolled around.  Indeed, solar managed to thrive in the years since NEM 2.0 went into effect, with California installing more than 1.5 million solar systems by last September.  

I have written at length about the NEM 3.0 Proposed Decision that was released in December 2021, and the solar industry’s efforts to fight it off (as in here, here, here, here, here, here, and here)!  There was good reason for our sense of urgency and our advocacy: the PD was a disaster!  It would have threatened the grandfathering of existing NEM customers, it would have imposed an outrageous tax on new solar systems, and it would have drastically cut the compensation rate for energy exported back to the grid.  If approved as proposed, it would have decimated the solar industry in IOU territories.  Fighting back was our only option.

First - the Good News…

Our unprecedented advocacy had positive results.  The initial PD was withdrawn, and we bought 11 months of delay allowing thousands of additional solar systems to be installed under NEM 2.0.  The rules as adopted leave alone the grandfathering for NEM 1.0 and 2.0 systems which will remain under their rules for 20 years.  Most importantly, we killed the solar tax that would have added a monthly charge of $6/kW on all new systems!

We made a lot of noise and we defeated some of the worst provisions of the original PD - kudos to all who wrote, and spoke, and marched, and called - it made a difference.

And Now, the Bad News…

But as important as those results are, we took a major hit when it comes to the export value of solar energy sent back to the grid - on average, roughly a 75% haircut - and the change happens overnight!  Instead of providing a “glide slope” of reduced export rates over, say, a five-year phase-in period, the drastically reduced export rates land as of April 14.  This will create a “gold rush” to get applications in before the rules change - more on that below.

Not only did the CPUC drastically lower the export rate, they made the means of calculating it completely Byzantine in its complexity, making modeling of export savings more complicated by orders of magnitude.  Under existing NEM 2.0 rules, your compensation was tied to when the energy was exported (since all solar customers were put on a Time-of-Use rate).  That meant you could be getting compensated under one of six export values: essentially high, medium, and low periods for both Summer and Winter seasons. 

By contrast, the new system uses one value for every hour of the year - 8,760 discrete values!  Seriously?

In an effort to provide some clarity out of that chaos, our friends at CALSSA boiled that down into this heatmap that averages those values down to “just” 576 values (12 months times 24 hours, times two categories - weekday and weekend).  Here’s the weekday version (click for larger):

SCE Weekday Export Rate heatmap
 

The color coding here is a simple gradient going from red for the lowest values to green for the highest.  There is one thing here that is really curious - see those two green numbers?  If you are exporting energy to the grid between six and seven p.m. during September, SCE is going to pay you nearly $3 for that energy!  Of course, there is very little solar output at those hours, but a properly programmed storage system can time its release of energy to coincide with those peak hours.

Clearly, solar power systems that also include storage will fair better under the NEM 3.0 rules than will solar only systems.  Which is great for those who can afford the extra expense of adding storage, but is awful for everyone else.

New SCE rateIn addition to the vastly lowered export rates, all solar customers will be forced onto the TOU-D-Prime rate.  That rate structure imposes a monthly fixed charge of $14.  (Compare that to the 3.1¢/day rate imposed on the tiered, Domestic rate that SCE customers were historically paying.)

The On-Peak rates are eye-popping!  If you are using energy during that 4-9 p.m. window in the summer you will be paying 54¢/kWh!  While that peak is crazy high, the  differential between On-Peak and Off-Peak is enormous: 30.7¢/kWh.  Again, if you have storage and can shift energy from mid-day production peaks for use after 4 p.m., you can leverage that difference.

Of course this reliance on storage to make NEM 3.0 less painful is in discord to the IOU’s professed concern for the inequities of solar - i.e., that it is only for the rich. Making the payback period for solar longer for everyone simply makes it less affordable by working-class people.  Needing to add storage on top of that, really pushes these systems toward the rich, and away from the middle class.  But then, this was never about concerns over lower income customers, this was always about protecting SCE’s profits.

Going Forward

Ok, so we are stuck with a bad decision that goes into effect April 14.  In order to qualify for NEM 2.0, the interconnection agreement must be submitted no later than April 13, and must be “free of major deficiencies and includes a complete application, a signed contract, a single-line diagram, a complete California Contractors State License Board Solar Energy System Disclosure Document, a signed California Solar Consumer Protection Guide, and an oversizing attestation (if applicable).“  The ruling doesn’t define what a “major deficiency” is, and up until now, it has been SCE’s sole discretion as to whether an application was complete and valid.  We have seen applications kicked for the most minor of issues, and if you submit near the deadline, and SCE kicks the application and you now miss the deadline, the value of your project will have changed drastically for the worst.

I’m not sure what other companies will do, but this is our intention: WE WILL NOT GUARANTEE SYSTEM SAVINGS FOR ANY APPLICATION SIGNED AFTER MARCH 31!

We can be certain that there will be problems as we get closer to the deadline, so the above rule will be hard and fast, and our contracts will reflect that reality.  So, a word to the wise: if you are thinking about going solar in SCE territory this year - act NOW!  You do not need to complete the project this year to qualify - you just need the application in and complete.  You have up to three years to actually complete the project!

It’s gonna be a crazy first quarter - the joys of riding on the solar coaster!  Get in touch now so that we can get the process completed in a timely manner.

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06/20/22

  06:58:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 321 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Ranting, Net Metering

Call Governor Newsom on The Longest Day of the Year!

Short and sweet: We need you to call Governor Newsom on June 21st!

Here’s the message from our friends at CALSSA:

  1. Call between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.Do not call earlier or later as you likely will not be able to get through. If for some reason you are unable to leave either a recorded message or a message with a live person and it is between 9 and 5, simply keep calling again until you do! 

  2. The number to call is 916-445-2841. After you dial, a recording will ask you to press 1 to continue in English or 2 for Spanish. After you press the appropriate number, you will then need to press “6″ to speak to a representative.

  3. The phone may ring many times, but eventually you shouldreach a representative for the Governor. When you do, simply deliver your message (sample script below). If no one picks up, you may be instructed to record a message, which is also totally fine.

    Sample script: “My name is __, I live in ___ and I [own a solar system/work in the solar industry]. I am opposed to a solar tax of any kind, and any other change that makes solar less affordable for working and middle class people. California should make rooftop solar more affordable for everyday people, not less. I expect Governor Newsom to take a clear public stance on this matter and show the leadership that this state deserves. Thank you.” [Feel free to use your own words!] 

  4. After you are done speaking with someone or recording a message, please go here to let us know what happened. This is very important as we’re keeping tabs on how many phone calls we’ve generated.

  5. Finally, after you have reported back to us on your call, make sure to email your colleagues or share on social media what you’ve done and ask them to do the same! There’s template language you can use below.

Thanks for your help - together we are going to win this thing!

05/24/22

  08:10:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1005 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Ranting, Non-profit solar, Net Metering

Rally to Kill the Solar Tax!

tl;dr - Come Rally with us on June 2, at 10:30 a.m. in Grand Park, DTLA!

As readers of this blog know only too well, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) had proposed - at the urging of the investor-owned utilities (IOUs), that is SCE, PG&E, and SDG&E - a new set of rules for how solar system owners would be compensated for the energy they put back onto the grid.  In a nutshell, that proposal would have pushed the payback period for solar systems to twenty years or more!  In an epic bit of organizing, our trade association - the California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA) - kicked up a ruckus that was clearly heard in Sacramento, by getting folks to sign petitions, issue public comments, testify to the CPUC for six hours straight, and two very loud, very colorful rallies in San Francisco and here in LA.  (If you missed that, you can read about the LA rally here.)

Thanks to those efforts, the original proposal was pulled back.  But that didn’t win the fight, as the CPUC is still talking about a Solar Tax that would destroy the value of rooftop solar for most Californians.

That’s why it’s time to lace up your protest shoes and attend the…

Rally to kill the solar tax

We need to more than double our impressive turnout from the last two rallies.  That means we need you!  And your kids.  And your friends.  And your kids friends - get the picture?

In case you need more detail - really, this is only about saving rooftop solar in California, so I wouldn’t think too many more details would be required but - let CALSSA’s Executive Director, Bernadette Del Chiaro, give you the Word:

On May 9, the CPUC took an unprecedented step of effectively issuing a new decision in the form of 14 questions. Those questions broke five months of silence, pulled back the curtain, and revealed what the CPUC is still thinking: tax solar and send the value of exports over a cliff. The CPUC has essentially floated a trial balloon to see how much push back they will get for proposing a solar tax (by a different name) and repackaging the solar cliff to make it sound nicer (ACC “plus”). Our job is to push back. Hard. Loud. Once and for all: No solar tax. No solar cliff. Not in California. Not now.

We need thousands of you. RSVP here.

Why June 2? For starters, because silence is acquiesce. Think about it. The State of California just floated a proposal to tax the behind-the-meter use of solar energy, again. Every day that goes by in which people aren’t reacting appropriately (i.e., freaking out), is a day in which the message back to our government is one of acceptance. That is certainly not our reality. If we could have, we would have rallied on May 10!
 
Another reason to rally on June 2 is because the CPUC has literally asked for our reaction to their “new” ideas: tax behind-the-meter solar consumption to the tune of $600 per year for the average customer (NOTE: the tax is not limited to the residential market – commercial market you could be caught up in this tragedy, too) and tie export values for everyone to the Avoided Cost Calculator which they have refused to adjust for the rising costs of natural gas, the crisis in the utility-scale market, and the demands of electrification. The CPUC has asked for our reaction by June 10. June 2 is simply the closest date to June 10 at which the CPUC is holding a meeting. The next meeting of the Commission is June 24 which would be too late.
 
Finally, there is never a good time to leave the office and come down off the roof. Collectively, we build more than 400 solar systems a day in California. That’s a lot of activity. And, with all the disruptions to supply chains along with the increased urgency due to this very campaign (ironically driving more people to solar than if they had promised to make gentle and gradual changes from the get-go), our days are busier and more complicated than ever. I get it. But what’s far more inconvenient and costly than shutting down your office for one day is closing your business or laying off half your staff in 2023 because the CPUC got NEM 3.0 horribly wrong. A stitch in time saves nine. Let’s save our market. RSPV now.
 
Finally, you might also be wondering why we should rally. Aren’t there other ways to make our voices heard? Of course the answer to that is, yes, there are many ways to make our voices heard. We are and should continue to speak out through petitions, letters to the governor, testimony that is being written by Brad now (to be submitted June 10), through media (like this question to Governor Newsom by Politico reporter last week), social media, and so much more. But to really be heard, we need to generate media attention too. We need to get on the nightly news and on the pages of the newspapers. Because when we do that, millions of voters hear our cry and we already know those millions are with us on the issue. 
 
It comes down to you reading this message and deciding to join the fray, the fun, the action. So, please join us in either Los Angeles or San Francisco on June 2. It will be worth your time. It will be fun. You’ll be glad you did it.
 
As always, email me with questions or comments.

p.s. Many people like to theorize about the likelihood of a Democratic governor in a pro-environment state harming the darling of the clean energy economy: solar. Putting aside the lack of understanding of how politics really works up here in Sacramento (hint: follow the money toward the path of least resistance), my ask to you is this: don’t leave this critical decision to political theory. Your active involvement in this campaign – most importantly joining us June 2 – will help make sure we win in reality, not just in theory. Let’s not leave anything this important to chance. Join us. 

This is up to us.  This is our fight.  Get in the game, people!  See you on June 2nd!

04/30/22

  03:41:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 417 words  
Categories: Net Metering

What doesn't Governor Newsom get?

While we wait, and wait, and wait some more for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to publish a new Proposed Decision for Net Energy Metering 3.0, the silence from Governor Newsom has been deafening.  And then, out of nowhere, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed a bill that would have done to the Florida solar industry what the CPUC tried to do here.  What am I missing?

The Sunshine State of Florida has a comparatively tiny solar market next to that of California - California has more than 1,400,000 rooftop solar installs compared to Florida’s 118,000, and the industry employs over 68,000 people in California versus only 11,000 in Florida, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) as of Q42021.  So you would think that California’s Governor - who is up for re-election this year - would get off the sidelines and into the game.  Yet all he has said publicly when asked about the original, disastrous, Proposed Decision, “We still have some work to do."  Yah think?

Meanwhile, far to Newsom’s right, DeSantis just vetoed a bill in Florida that would have gutted the rooftop solar industry there.  Amazing.

So what doesn’t Newsom get?  After all, every one of the Commissioners at the CPUC were appointed by Newsome.  Public comments from him would go a long way toward moving the CPUC to do the right thing.  And in an election year, his silence is frankly bad politics.  Rooftop solar consistently polls very well, particularly when compared to say, PG&E or SCE!

The California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA) - which has been leading the fight against the CPUC’s efforts to kill the rooftop solar industry - put out a comment from Executive Director Bernadette Del Chiaro on the veto from DeSantis, linking it to the NEM 3.0 controversy:

Governor DeSantis did not fall for the utilities’ playbook of protecting their profits and monopolies by eliminating competition from rooftop solar. Governor Newsom’s administration should not fall for it either. When it comes to keeping solar affordable, growing, and contributing to our clean energy future, California should be not only keeping pace with Florida, but leading the world.

As usual, Bernadette is spot on.

Our response has got to be to keep the pressure on Newsom to do the right thing.  One way to do that is to call his office and tell him that!

It’s super easy - just mash that button below. Do it now! Tell your friends to do it. Let’s make so much noise that Newsom will finally get it!

Watch this space…

04/11/22

  10:45:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 752 words  
Categories: Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Ranting, Non-profit solar

Say Hello to REC Solar!

In light of the unanticipated departure from the solar market of our prior module manufacturer, we needed to go do some research and identify a new module to recommend to our clients.  After a month of research, and some time getting certified, we are now ready to rollout our new go-to product: REC Alpha Pure modules!  Here’s why…

REC Alpha Pure module

Run on Sun’s module of choice: the REC Alpha Pure

First of all, this black-on-black module will look great on our clients’s homes and businesses!

That is a 400 Watt module, slightly taller than our prior 380 Watt modules, but an inch narrower. Frankly, the added power/efficiency and the sharp esthetics were definitely points in REC’s favor.

We also were attracted to their avoidance of lead-based solder in their modules, meaning that when the time comes for them to be retired - decades from now! - they are less toxic than other modules on the market.

Wow that Warranty!

But what really wowed us the most was their warranty, covering Performance, Product and Labor.  Let’s take those one at a time.

  • Performance - of course, every solar module comes with some sort of performance warranty.  After so many years, the product will produce some percentage of its nameplate value.  For some panels, that prediction is 85-90% of nameplate after 25 years.  On our prior product, it was 90.8%.
    REC beats them all with a whopping 92% performance after 25 years!
  • Product -  REC offers a 20 year product warranty that gets extended to 25 years when you choose a Certified REC Installer (more on that in a minute).  Clearly, REC believes in the quality of their product, particularly when supported by Installers who know what they are doing!
  • Labor - REC offers a labor warranty (again, when you choose a Certified REC Installer) that pays the installer to make the swap if ever needed - something most manufacturers do not offer at all!

Taken together, that is one of the best warranties in the industry!

Performance

Warranties are great, but hopefully you will never need to rely on one.  Rather, you want a product that outperforms the competition, day in and day out!  After all, that is what drives your return on investment, and in the performance space REC really shines.

One real world measure of performance is the PTC to STC ratio.  All solar modules have a nameplate rating: a module might be nameplate rated at 380 Watts (our prior module) or 400 Watts - the REC Alpha Pure.  That rating is measured under Standard Test Conditions - or STC - which are conditions seen only in a lab and certainly not on a roof.  So years ago, the CEC came up with something called the “PV Test Conditions” - PTC for short - that are meant to better capture what is happening on your rooftop, particularly at the higher temperatures found in the real world.  Taking the ratio of PTC rating to STC (or nameplate) rating gives you an idea of how well the module will actually perform.

On our old 380 Watt modules, the PTC rating was 352.1 Watts for a ratio of 92.6% - certainly a respectable number.  But REC has it beat handily!  The PTC rating for the 400 Watt Alpha Pure module is 381 Watts, producing a ratio of 95.25% - a 2.6% advantage for REC!  That translates into better performance at temperature, all day, everyday.  And that means greater savings for you!

Of course, REC is happy to highlight all of the great features in this truly innovative product, so take it away:

Certified Better

We mentioned that the REC Product warranty extends from 20 to 25 years, and the Labor warranty comes into play if you go with an REC Certified Installer.  Readers of this blog will not be surprised to discover that given how much we love certifications - think NABCEP for 12 years, and Enphase for Ensemble and IQ8 - we immediately signed up to get ourselves certified.

REC certified

By gaining certification, we open up to our clients REC’s extended warranties - providing you with additional value at no cost to you.  In addition, you have the assurance that we have taken the time to learn about this wonderful product and how to install it in such a manner that you will enjoy many years of uninterrupted performance.  You can check out our certification here!

Managing the Solar Coaster…

So the Solar Coaster continues with its ups and downs, but we feel like we have arrived in a great place with REC, and look forward to providing their wonderful products to our clients for many years to come.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know in the comments!

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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