Category: "Ranting"

05/26/21

  04:43:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 173 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, SCE, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Ranting, Non-profit solar, SDG&E

Stop AB1139!

We have written about the perils of AB 1139 and how it would gut net energy metering for all solar owners, regardless of “grandfathering” that they were promised.  Having sailed through two Assembly committees unscathed, it is scheduled for a floor vote in the Assembly tomorrow, Thursday, May 27th. 

We need you to call your Assemblymember NOW to get them to vote No on this terrible bill.

Here is the News Flash that we just sent out to our subscribers:

 AB 1139 Heads to Floor Vote
Take Action Today

AB 1139, the Utility Profit Grab bill to kill rooftop solar and hurt your solar investment heads to an Assembly Floor vote expected TOMORROW. Call your assemblymember to stop the bill right now! Click here to take action.
 

We need to flood the assembly with thousands of phone calls. Phone calls work! So, Please call now. It takes 2 minutes.

When you click the link below, we will help you determine your Assemblymember and set up the call for you - it couldn’t be easier.

 
Call your Assemblymember Now
 

Thank you for your support!

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02/17/21

  08:47:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 927 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, SCE, Residential Solar, Ranting, SDG&E, Net Metering

The Battle to Preserve Net Metering is Underway - Time to Fight!

TL;DR - We need your help to preserve net metering - Sign the Petition!

Run on Sun has been installing grid-tied solar power system since 2007, and one constant in all of that time has been the hostility towards such systems evinced by the Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs): SCE, PG&E and SDG&E. Nowhere is that hostility on clearer display than it has been in their efforts to erode, if not eliminate altogether, net metering.  But now, with the IOUs lobbying for the creation of Net Metering 3.0, the battle for the survival of net metering is about to be joined in earnest.  If your right to put solar on your home or business is to be preserved, we are going to need all of you to join the fight.  Here’s our take…

What is Net Metering?

Net Energy Metering (NEM) or just net metering for short, is the basis by which a solar system provides the owner with a significant portion of their financial benefit.  Solar systems on a clear, sunny day produce energy that follows a normal distribution, with the peak energy production occurring around solar noon, and rolling off in a typical “bell curve” on either side.  That energy saves the system owner money twice: first, by directly offsetting the energy usage of the home or business, but secondly, by allowing the excess energy to be exported back to the grid for retail credit.  That retail credit is then applied against energy imported from the grid to power loads at night or on cloudy days.  At the end of the billing cycle, those two values - the amount of energy imported versus the amount of energy exported - are “netted” out, and if the amount imported is greater than what was exported, the difference is charged to the customer.  Conversely, if more energy is exported than imported, the customer has a credit for that period that can be carried forward.

Of course, the energy exported to the grid for which the net metering customer gets credit doesn’t disappear - the utility sells it to another customer for that full retail value.  Moreover, because that energy did not have to be transported from far-off generation facilities, there is less demand to build expensive infrastructure like high-voltage transmission lines - you know, like the lines that have sparked deadly wildfires in the past few years.

So you might think that net metering would be a win-win for everyone - solar clients get a greater financial incentive to foot the bill for installing energy generation systems and the utility gets additional energy without incurring the costs of building or maintaining them.  But you would be wrong.  You see, IOUs don’t make money selling energy.  They make money building things.  In fact, in a stunningly perverse incentive structure, the IOUs get a guaranteed return on investment of 10% for every dollar they spend building stuff: generation plants, transmission lines, etc.  So they see the growth of solar, particularly rooftop solar, as a threat to their antiquated business model, and the best tool at their disposal is to take as big a bite out of net metering as possible.

Where are We Today and Where are the IOUs Trying to Go?

The version of net metering described above actually no longer exists with the IOUs, instead, they transitioned to NEM 2.0 a few years ago.  (Municipal utilities, like PWP, still offer full net metering.)  Under that scheme, a one-time interconnection charge was created, along with what are known as Nonbypassable Charges, which require their customer to pay a relatively small amount for every kilowatt hour of energy imported, even if that energy is actually offset by exported production.  The real kicker was that all solar customers in IOU territory were switched to Time-of-Use rates that made the value of exported solar lower, and energy imported from 4-9 significantly more expensive.

But now, heading into NEM 3.0, the IOUs are going all in!  A recent report by the consulting firm E3 was released by the CPUC and it highlights some options for changing net metering that would seriously impact the value of solar.  In particular, the report proposes fixed monthly charges of between $50 and $70 for all solar customers, combined with a “grid access charge” each month of between $5-$7/kW installed!  That means that under the best case scenario of their proposals, a residential customer with a 4 kW solar system installed would pay an extra $70 per month, every month, just because they have solar - that they paid for - on their home!  That is an $840/year penalty for going green! 

If that doesn’t make you see red, nothing will!

We’re Not Gonna Take It!

To say that the California solar industry is in the fight of its life is an understatement.  But so are all solar customers, who could see the value of their investment greatly eroded by these misguided policy proposals.  And that is where you come in.  We are fighting back and we need you in the fight!  The California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA - our trade association) and the Solar Rights Alliance are gearing up to organize against the threat.  The first step is in signing a petition to Governor Newsom - we need him as an ally now.  It is super easy to sign on and we are looking to collect 20,000 signatures before April 1.  As of this writing, we are at 923 supporters, so we have a long way to go - and that starts with you!  (We will have more news on ways to fight back in the coming weeks, so watch this space.) 

Please click the big button below and let’s get this done!

Sign the Petition!

08/16/20

  02:00:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 846 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Ranting

On an Inglorious Anniversary...

A year ago we woke up to one of the worst surprises a business could imagine - our website was gone!  Read on to see what happened and our journey over this past year…

A Rude Awakening

Last August the runonsun.com website was humming along, generating thousands of visits each and every month, and from those thousands of visits, the majority of our leads.  Apart from boosting the occasional Facebook post, we generated that traffic without advertising. That success was years in the making, producing a high-quality website and an information rich blog.

OopsBut then, on August 15th, when we went to open our browser, what we saw made me catch my breath - runonsun.com could not be reached?  What did that mean?  I checked with my hosting service - everything there was fine.  I could access my host server, all of our files were intact.  But you could not reach the actual website.  What on earth?

I went to check my email to see if there would be some indication of the cause of our problem.  But then I realized - no email!  We could neither send nor receive emails!  Holy crap, this was serious!  What will prospective clients do if their emails to you bounce?

Unfortunately, that was not the worst of it.  The backbone of our operation is our Client Relationship Management system.  The Run on Sun CRM was written inhouse and we track every client contact from initial website connection or phone call, all the way through final inspection of their project.  We schedule our site evaluations through it, and store for display the data we gather there - and suddenly it was all gone!

Fighting Off Panic

I have to admit - as the realization of the scope of our problem dawned on me, I was in a state of shock!  How could this happen?  As I dug into the technical details, I pieced together what had happened.  The registration of the domain name was on a five-year renewal cycle, so it wasn’t like its status was top-of-mind.  The registration was in my former partner’s name, and apparently someone hacked his email account and got the credentials to our account at the domain registrar.  This person then initiated a transfer of the domain to bizcn.com - a notorious registrar associated with lots of unsavory businesses - and because the confirmation emails went to the hacked email account, they were able to confirm the transfer!

We contacted bizcn.com and explained what had happened.  They didn’t care.  We had our old registrar contact them and explain what happened.  The still didn’t care. To this day, runonsun.com is parked at bizcn.com, pointing to nothing.  

Coming Back

While we tried - unsuccessfully - to get the domain back, we needed to come up with a Plan B to move forward.  The first step was to register a new domain name - runonsun.solar - and point that to our website. Then we had to change the Internet records to allow us to send and receive emails at the new domain.  Then we had to change all of the dozens of places where we had links pointing to the old domain and get them changed to point to the new one.  (The simple way to do this - set up a permanent redirection from runonsun.com to runonsun.solar was unavailable to us since we didn’t have control over the old domain.  Sigh.)

We sent Google new sitemaps showing our pages now at the new domain.  Unfortunately, that didn’t immediately change the search engine results page - we would see searches find our content, only to be linked to the dead domain!  This was going to take time!

A Year Later

So it has been a year, how are we doing?  Well, of course this hasn’t really been a normal year for anyone, now has it?  But this image gives a pretty good sense (click for larger):

The orange line is daily users from August 1 to August 16, 2019, whereas the blue line is the same days this year.  (You can clearly see our traffic fall off a cliff on August 15!)  The summary numbers are brutal: users down 67%, same for total sessions, and pages viewed is even worse, off a whopping 82%!  If they can’t find you, they can’t view you!  One glimmer - average session duration has increased by 27% - which means if they get here they stay longer than before!

 But we are making progress: a Google search for “Enphase Ensemble” produces our blog post, “Hands-On with Ensemble - My Trip to Enphase!” as the number seven result, and on a mobile device it is the first listing under “Interesting finds".  Searching for, “I’ve got solar, why are my bills so high?” finds our blog post excerpted at the top of the SERP as a cherished “Featured Snippet” - thanks, Google!

So that is our saga - we are grateful for those of you who have found us, we hope to be a source of quality information for a long time - to say nothing of the best solar installations in the Pasadena area! 

Meanwhile, please tell your friends about us, we still need to grow back another 67% to break even!

04/23/20

  06:41:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 725 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Ranting, Non-profit solar

While You Were Sleeping: Will FERC Preempt States' Ability to Regulate Solar?

For the most part, the regulation of the solar industry - particularly the residential and commercial solar industry - is a function of state regulators.  In California, both the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) have been the major players in shaping the policies that govern solar installations, including policies like Net Energy Metering (NEM) which determines the economic value of going solar.  But now, a petition from the other side of the country could change all of that, and force states to turn control over the solar industry to federal regulators.  Here’s our take…

FERC logo

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is ”an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil.” Well, wait a second, what does rooftop solar have to do with the “interstate transmission of electricity"?  At first blush, certainly nothing - the excess power from your home solar might go to power your neighbor’s house, but it certainly isn’t crossing state lines. (As a recovering lawyer I could go into a lengthy discussion of the Constitution’s Commerce clause and how that has been broadly interpreted to cover an amazing array of things that seem local, but are actually interstate commerce - but I will spare you that discussion!)  

The hook here is in the greater detail of what the FERC does: “Regulates the transmission and wholesale sales of electricity in interstate commerce."  Under NEM rules, excess energy put out onto the utility’s grid by a “behind-the-meter” solar system, i.e., all grid-tied residential and commercial PV systems,  is then resold by the utility to its other customers.  A petition to the FERC filed by the New England Ratepayers Association is asking FERC to find that those sales are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the FERC.  From the petition:

The law is incontrovertible. The [Federal Power Act] draws a bright line between state and federal jurisdiction over energy sales. Sales of energy at wholesale are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of this Commission. Sales of energy at retail are subject to the jurisdiction of the states. The sales at issue in this Petition are wholesale sales because the energy is being sold to the utility for resale to the utility’s retail load…  and therefore the Commission is required to exercise its rate jurisdiction over them. [Emphasis added.]

Wow!  Now that is interesting - energy exported to the grid, for which the PV owner is paid retail rates (or closer there to), and which the customer down the wire pays full retail rates, is somehow transmogrified into a wholesale energy sale!

But what is the point of all this?  Simple - if these are wholesale energy sales, then FERC has sole regulatory control, and pro-solar policies such as NEM would be replaced by, at best, compensation for excess energy exported at the wholesale rate.  Never mind that SCE is charging you anywhere from 19¢ to 40¢, you are only going to be compensated at the 2-6¢ rate!

Much of the “logic” behind the petition argument will be familiar to readers of this blog: rooftop solar is economically inefficient, NEM distorts wholesale energy markets, and imposes unfair burdens on ratepayers without solar.  Nevermind that all of these points have been debunked before (their expert calls those debunking efforts “irrelevant"), what is important to note is that while many of us are locked out and hunkered down during this crisis, are opponents are not.  They are hard at work, hiring top-dollar DC lawyers to press the case while the rest of us are just trying to get through the month.

Make no mistake about it - if this petition is successful, it will be the end of NEM as we know it, and not just in New England, but nationwide!

This is where organizations like CALSSA(for solar installers here in CA) and the Solar Rights Alliance (for solar system owners) are so critical.  If you are a solar installer, or run a solar company and you are not a CALSSA member, shame on you.  Join!  If you have a solar installation on your roof and you don’t belong to the Solar Rights Alliance - wake up!  Join!

NERA’s petition was filed on April 14th and under the fast track rules that NERA requested (and paid a $30,000 filing fee to secure), comments are due by mid-May.   We will update you when we learn more about its progress.  Watch this space.

04/22/20

  04:19:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 607 words  
Categories: Ranting

Happy Earth Day - Fifty Years On!

It is hard to believe, but the First Earth Day was fifty years ago! A lot has changed since then, but too much hasn’t! Here’s our take…

Earthrise - Apollo 8 - 1968

Earthrise from Apollo 8 - 1968. (NASA photo.)

I’m giving away my age here, but I was a high school student on that first Earth Day and was heavily involved in environmental causes, so the notion that people around the world would come together to raise consciousness about the damage we were causing to the environment was an eye-opening moment for me.  The need for change was so dire - air quality in Los Angeles was unhealthy much of the year, a river in Ohio was so polluted it caught fire, toxic chemicals were released into the atmosphere without concern for their secondary effects - that the task ahead seemed nearly insurmountable. 

The EPA did not yet exist (it was founded eight months later), nor did the Clean Air Act (also later that year), nor the Clean Water Act (1972).  On this day fifty years ago, we were practically starting from square one.

Space flight in general, and the Apollo program in particular, had helped spur the environmental movement, as those first images of Earth from lunar orbit captured the public imagination in a way nothing else ever had.  Truly we were a small, fragile planet in the vast darkness of space, and with no Planet B - certainly not the Moon - people started to realize that we needed to change what we were doing if we were to live in a sustainable world.

In the decades that followed, much progress was made.  California pioneered the way in reducing smog-forming emissions from automobiles, and tough regulations eliminated the indiscriminate dumping of toxins into the air and water.  Air and water quality slowly began to improve, even as the population of the country increased by more than 50%.

To be sure, there were times of lapse, particularly when the economy went into a downturn.  In the early 1990’s I was working as an air quality environmental advocate while California was experiencing a recession.  The constant refrain from the polluters - counterfactual but persistent - was that environmental regulations were “job killers” and that we needed to rollback standards to spur economic growth.  That argument was counterfactual because, as numerous studies proved, environmental standards actually were a net job creator, spurring innovation and job growth.

Fast forward to today.  Despite our progress, we have a long way to go, and for today’s generation the threat of climate change dwarfs the challenges that were confronted fifty years ago.  

Added to that challenge is the sudden, virus-induced economic calamity that we are just starting to comprehend.  Already we are seeing anti-regulation forces and climate-change deniers try to use this crisis as a way of eroding the progress that we have made toward a more sustainable society.  The solar industry is not immune from that attack and we will have more to say on that in the coming days.  Suffice it to say that the forces of greed are never vanquished, and though, at times, we make progress against them, they are biding their time, looking for an opportunity to reassert themselves.  If we are not vigilant, this may well be such an opportunity. There will be time enough to write about where those alarm bells are clanging. 

Today, however, it is important to look back over these past fifty years, just as the Apollo 8 crew looked back toward Earth, and put into perspective what we have accomplished.  It took guts, perseverance, and maybe a little luck to achieve what we have.  With more of the same, we will overcome the challenges of this era.

Happy Earth Day!

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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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