Categories: "Utilities"

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 system 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!
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05/19/20

  01:57:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 424 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, SCE

SCE Hikes Rates 6%

Talk about tone deaf - just as folks are stuck at home, sheltering in place, SCE jacked its rates roughly 6% across the board, because, you know, folks can so much more easily afford a rate hike while people are losing their jobs!  Here’s our (can you say outraged) take…

As of April 13, with little to no fanfare, SCE’s latest rate increase went into effect.  While different rates vary by somewhat different amounts, the overall average of 6.7% is expected to provide SCE with an additional $478 million dollars in revenue.  How nice.

The rate increase is not new; it is part of the CPUC-approved General Rate Case that was adopted in 2018 and covers rates for three years.  Nevertheless, at a time when other utilities, like PWP, are working hard to support their customers during a disastrous financial time, SCE’s willingness to press ahead with the rate increase is baffling, at best.

Using our regular proposal tool - Energy Toolbase - we decided to look at the results for three actual clients: a small usage client, a medium or really typical client, and then a very large usage client to see how the percentages played out.  Here are our results:

SCE rate increase

SCE’s Rate Increase - Click for Larger

The small user, with a total annual usage of 6,093 kWh (16.7 kWh/day) still has an annual bill on the tiered, Domestic rate plan of $1,267 and will experience a 6.24% increase or an extra $79 out of pocket.  Our medium user consumes nearly twice as much annual energy, 11,814 kWh (32.4 kWh/day), but because of the higher costs in the upper tiers of the Domestic rate plan, their bill is more than double.  After the 6.24% increase, the medium user is spending an extra $166.  Our large user - and this is not our largest residential client! - consumes 32,488 kWh (89.0 kWh/day), and has a bill to match, roughly four-times that of the medium user due to essentially living in the top tier of the rate structure.  After a 6.26% increase, they will be spending an extra $633!

We also looked at the same users switched over to a Time-of-Use rate (here, the 4-9 p.m. peak rate structure) and ran the numbers again.  One thing that leaps right out at you is that very large users will do much better on a TOU rate generally since otherwise almost all of their usage is billed in the top tier.  The percentage rate increases under the TOU rate are slightly smaller, with the small user paying an extra  $76, the medium user $160, and the large user $507.

Not exactly the sort of relief that ratepayers need at this time of unprecedented uncertainty.

02/28/20

  04:46:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 411 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, PWP, LADWP, BWP, GWP, Residential Solar, Ranting

SMUD Scheme Threatens New Solar Homes Mandate

With very little fanfare, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District ("SMUD") just convinced the California Energy Commission to allow it to offer a SMUD-owned alternative to installing solar power systems on new homes under California’s just instituted New Solar Homes mandate. As other municipal utilities lined up in support – including PWP, LADWP, BWP and GWP – it is clear that this is nothing short of a full-on assault against the New Solar Homes mandate. Here’s our take…

Solar installed on a new home

Solar added to a new home in Altadena

The intent of the New Solar Homes mandate was to install appropriately sized solar power systems on every new home in California.  There are many benefits to such a program, including providing distributed power across the grid, thereby increasing grid reliability, as well as generating jobs and raising public awareness as solar becomes commonplace. 

The SMUD scheme thwarts all of that.  Instead, a SMUD-owned solar farm would have it production allocated across participating new homes.  (Tellingly, the SMUD scheme does not permit privately built community solar farms to participate in the program!)  Worse yet, the SMUD scheme effectively prevents subsequent home owners from adding local solar, since the first 4,700 kWhs must come from the SMUD-owned facility.

So how did this get approved?  In addition to all of the municipal utilities in California lining up behind SMUD’s power grab, so did much of the building industry (as they can simply fill out paperwork for compliance instead of actually building solar systems), and the IBEW (whose members get employed when utility-scale solar farms are built).  On the short end of the stick are local solar contractors, and consumers who lose the power to choose their own, local solar system because the builder decided to opt-into SMUD’s scheme.

What say you, PWP?

Which brings this back home.  While Pasadena Water and Power did not submit their own letter of support (that we could find), their trade association, the California Municipal Utilities Association, did.  Now there aren’t that many new homes being built in Pasadena at this point, but can we expect to see a similar power grab from PWP?  LADWP did submit their own letter and there are plenty of new homes going up within the City’s boundaries - is a similar scheme in the works?

The utilities rely on consumers being largely uninformed as to these schemes to push them through.  We will be keeping an eye on what our local utilities bring forward in the coming months.  Watch this space.

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03/13/19

  07:15:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 411 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, SCE, Residential Solar, Ranting, CALSSA

Clean Power Alliance -- NEM Fail!

Back in January we wrote about the pending switch over to Clean Power Alliance (CPA) in portions of SCE’s service territory (Clean Power Alliance is Coming - is that a Good Thing?), noting that given the slightly lower rates, the switch was probably a good deal for most SCE customers.  Alas, it turns out that it wasn’t such a good deal for SCE’s solar customers!  Here’s our take and recommendation…

PLEASE NOTE: THIS APPLIES ONLY  TO SCE CUSTOMERS!
SOLAR CUSTOMERS IN PWP, LADWP AND OTHER MUNICIPAL UTILITIES CAN IGNORE THIS COMPLETELY!

Yesterday our trade association, CALSSA sent out this urgent notice under the headline: ALERT: CPA NEM snafu:

ACTION: For existing residential customers, we suggest you advise them to OPT OUT of the Clean Power Alliance (LA area CCA) by March 31st!

To opt out, they should call Clean Power Alliance at 888-585-3788 immediately.

What is going on here?  It seems that in their zeal to initiate the switchover from SCE, CPA fouled up how they are handling the “true-up” accounting.  As a result, solar customers who switched to CPA—and mind you, if you are in one of the affected cities, the default is for you to be switched to CPA—you will actually receive two true-up bills this year - one from SCE and the other from CPA.  CALSSA is sufficiently concerned that this could have an adverse financial impact that presumably exceeds whatever saving you might realize from the switch to CPA’s lower rates.

According to CPA, customers who OPT OUT by March 31, will only have one true-up bill this year “as if nothing had ever happened.”

For solar system owners who are part of the Solar Rights Alliance, they have already received notice directly regarding this situation.  (Not yet a member of the SRA?  Sign-up here.)

Here’s a list of cities participating in the CPA switch:

Unincorporated area of Los Angeles (e.g., Altadena) and Ventura Counties and the following cities: Agoura Hills, Alhambra, Arcadia, Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Camarillo, Carson, Claremont, Culver City, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, Hawthorne, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Moorpark, Ojai, Oxnard, Paramount, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills Estates, Santa Monica, Sierra Madre, Simi Valley, South Pasadena, Temple City, Thousand Oaks, Ventura, West Hollywood and Whittier.

Once things get sorted out, if you want to switch to CPA, you will be able to do so, and we will write about it once we know more.  But for now, the prudent choice appears to be to make that call and opt-out.  If you have any issues in doing so, please let us know.

02/25/19

  10:45:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 445 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Utilities, Residential Solar, Energy Storage, Vote Solar, CALSSA

Solar Bill of Rights Introduced in California Legislature

Capitol steps launch for SB-288 - the Solar Bill of Rights

On February 19th, a bipartisan bill, SB-288, was introduced in the California legislature to enshrine into State law a Solar Bill of Rights.  tl;dr Support the Solar Bill of Rights! 
Here’s our take…

The legislation, co-authored by Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Jim Nielsen (R-Fresno), has the enthusiastic backing of the Solar Rights Alliance, Vote Solar, and CALSSA.  If signed into law, the bill would require both Investor Owned Utilities (like SCE) as well as public utilities (like LADWP and PWP) to make changes to how they handle the interconnection of solar and storage systems, provide for compensation for storage systems that provide energy back to the grid, and report on their progress in streamlining their processes for approving and commissioning such systems.

The bill also makes some key findings regarding the value of distributed energy generation and storage systems:

  1. All California residents, businesses, nonprofits, and government entities have the fundamental right to generate and store renewable energy and to reduce and shape their use of electricity obtained from the electrical grid, whether their facilities are off-grid or interconnected to the grid.
  2. These fundamental rights to self-generation and storage extend to all California consumers regardless of income level, geography, or property type.
  3. Residential customers have a right to consumer protections that ensure adequate transparency in sales and contracts for renewable energy and storage installations and services. [To which we say: Amen!]
  4. Customer-sited solar and energy storage systems will play an essential role in helping the state to meet its greenhouse gases emissions and other environmental goals.
  5. Customer-sited solar and energy storage systems are valuable assets for managing the electrical grid efficiently and improving the reliability and resiliency of the grid.
  6. Removing barriers to the installation of customer-sited energy resources will help reduce costs and facilitate the deployment of these resources.
  7. The time required for utility review and approval of interconnection applications and the lack of transparency in interconnection costs has impeded customer adoption of solar and energy storage systems.
  8. Developing market mechanisms for energy and other services supplied by customer-sited energy resources can facilitate the adoption and deployment of renewable energy and energy storage technologies that will provide greater local reliability and resiliency benefits throughout the year, including during emergency conditions.

But as we have said in this space often before, politics is not a spectator sport—it takes active involvement to bring about effective public policy.  The good news is that we can make it super easy for you to contact your members of the California Legislature and urge them to co-sponsor SB-288.  Just click on the friendly button below:

Support SB-288

We will keep you posted as to the bill’s progress - watch this space!

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Help Save Rooftop Solar!

California Utilities are trying to kill rooftop solar on your home by gutting net metering - but you can stop them!
Join the fight by signing the petition today!

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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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