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Notice to California Solar-Power Owners about AB-327...

Well, it looks like if you own a solar-power-system (like myself), we will soon be at the mercy of California Public Utility Commission to decide our fate.

Assembly Bill AB 327 could have a negative effect on solar-power customers, and increase rates for those of us trying to reduce greenhouse gasses, save energy, and help provide power for the weakened and overburdened California power grid. Unfortunately, no one is really sure how it will effect current solar-power customers at this point, as rates are not part of the bill's language. However, it appears if you currently are getting a rebate via net-metering, you will now have to at least pay a per month fee to help maintain the grid. Otherwise, the primary purpose of the bill sounds very much like another 'Nanny-State' law that forces those who choose to use less energy, to subsidize those who waste a LOT!
It will furthermore help subsidize residents and businesses who 'chose' to live further away from the coast and waste energy, (and who paid far less for their homes and businesses), by inturn charging higher rates for those who paid FAR MORE to live near the coast, and conserve energy. Thus, if there was any reason left in this state to conserve, be wise, work hard, and be conscientious about our planet/environment, it looks like there isn't anymore. ;-(

Governor Brown hasn't signed the bill yet, however, the chances look slim that he won't.

Thanks for the news. The State will always find ways to squeeze money from us.

Yes, this is a travesty. The bill allows the California utilities to charge solar homes $10 per month to "maintain the grid" as well as potentially allow the utilities to unilaterally alter the net metering agreements that solar producers have already signed. What a joke. Meanwhile, we provide energy at peak time with the highest cost per kwh, yet are paid at the lowest overnight cost per kwh for excess generation (ie ~0.038 per kwh versus upto 0.47 per kwh at peak time). Unbelievable.

Rooftop solar is a disruptive technology that kills the old business model of the investor/profit driven California utilities. The politicians are simply trying to keep their profits at the expense of those who are using renewables. The utilities are afraid of the free market forces created by individual solar generators.

If I have to pay for upkeep of the grid, then I should be able to sell my excess electricity at market rates during peak time, not some ridiculous overnight price of ~0.038 per kwh. Let the free market work.

I suggest that we all write Jerry Brown and demand that he not sign the bill. The bill should be encouraging solar, not inhibiting adoption.

If he signs the bill, I may just have to buy a battery (from Tesla?), store my solar energy to use as needed and cut myself off of the grid. This would be far more expensive, but at least i would not feel that I am lining the pockets of the utilities.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-electric-rates-bill-20130910,0,786...

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/california-senate-votes-yes-...

md,

No doubt! When power deregulation happened a decade ago, I was completely against it. After years of price gouging, fraud, ENRON, brown-outs, etc (all of which I predicted), now these crooks want to have their 'cake and eat-it-too' fake free-market monopoly!

As it is, where I live, residential solar-power has almost completely made up for the higher daytime loss of great debocal known as the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), which has been plagued by poor quality control, and a half-billion dollar screw-up, which ended its fate. Now as a 'thank you' for saving Edison's pethetic sorry asses, we get this BS!

If anything, solar-power owners should have the right to sell their power back to the grid at double the price of the highest TIER rate, just as a bonus for saving the grid.

Go figure... almost a hunded years after their deaths, Edison is still screwing the public and Tesla!

Moonbeam: "Those are my principles -- and if you don't like them, I have others!"

This is similar to what APS is doing in Arizona. They claim solar users do not pay their fair share to maintain the grid, which is utter nonsense. I pay monthly meter connection and meter reading fees in addition to all kinds of taxes, now they want to add an additional surcharge on solar customers to help APS recoup lost revenue. That's all it is - a money grab. Having solar is saving me $1,200 over paying APS for 100% of my power, so now APS wants a piece of that back - they want a piece of something they are not entitled to.

In the case of APS and Arizona, current solar customers TOU plans and terms will be grandfathered into the new plan for a period of 20 years. So in that respect I'm happy, but future solar customers are going to get screwed and a lot of installers are going to either go out of business or lay off hard working people.

First I have enough PV to cover my home and MS on an annual basis. I also consider myself pro solar (and MS). That being said....

Let us say everyone has enough PV to cover there home (and EV?). I would consider this to be a good thing. However, we all want power at night and/or cloudy days. This would mean we still need 90-100% of our current generating capability. So 100% of traditional power generation would be peak generation, which is expensive. You also want to be connected to the grid to get the power. Someone has to pay for all that... and that person is the consumer.

Batteries/storage doesn't eliminate this problem. When it snows I get 0 production for up to a week (I live in VA). Batteries/storage can only do so much.

This is one of the problems with intermittent renewable energy. It is a necessary evil in my opinion.

Brings a tear to my eye! Just another benefit we get from living in the great state of California!

We are always blessed with more fees, more taxes, more costs....Just have to find the way around them...legally of course. If we have solar, can't we just go off grid and avoid any costs what so ever?

Tikiman: I agree, we should get a bonus for saving the state from brown outs that most certainly would have occurred because of the colossal mis-management at San Onofre Nuclear by the utilities.

dtesla: The problem here in California is that the electric companies want it both ways. Solar provides power to the grid at peak demand time here in Southern California, which just also happens to be the most expensive per kWh if bought on the open market from traditional producers. Yet, instead of paying the residential solar producer for his/her excess production at the same rate they buy from traditional producers during the day, they pay us the lower average overnight cost of only ~0.038 per kWh. So we are providing electricity to the grid at a huge mark down compared to the true daytime wholesale price. Thus, we are already greatly subsidizing the Grid. Yet they want more from us because their revenue has been reduced!!!!!

keichhor: You can go off grid but you will need a large battery and a large enough solar system to cover the cloudy days etc. Possible, but expensive.

Let the free market reign: let me sell my excess electricity at market rates during the daytime and then let me buy back my electricity at market rates during off peak.

APS in Arizona credits you the same rate per kWh as they charge you. The time at which that kWh was generated will determine what retail rate APS will pay. The new APS plan will lower their net metering rates to reflect a wholesale rather than a retail buyback of your excess production.

Tiki: Thanks for the heads up.

I'm on the Net Energy Metering plan in PG&E territory in California, and I have enough PV to cover my yearly household usage. NEM is currently a very generous plan and does make PV very attractive. Unfortunately the current NEM plan is not scalable and just won't work as PV becomes more pervasive.

I'm glad that this bill EXPANDS the number customers who can take advantage of NEM and it also gives useful guidelines to the PUC to develop a fair and workable program.

Without this revision there was a cap on the number of customers on NEM and this bill raises this by about 5x. Very good news indeed.

Amped

That is partly true for Time of Use SCE plans provided you are not producing more than you use averaged over 1 year. But for any excess production over 1 year, they will only pay you 0.038 per kwh even though it was generated at peak time with much higher wholesale costs.

joehuber

That is good news, but it still does not justify charging residential solar producers for "Maintenance of the Grid" when we are already subsidizing the grid immensely.

I am confused about why you say the current NEM plan is not scalable. It is only 'not scalable' for the utilities because it lowers their monopoly derived revenues/profits. Let the free market work: once enough solar is brought on board the daytime wholesale rates will fall and then all customers will benefit.

Who is getting the green credits for residential solar power?
The green credits are valuable.

As always, I am glad I have SMUD as my utility. I guess I am not opposed to some fixed fee for PV owners as long as it is reasonable. Its no different than EV owners paying an annual fee to cover the road maintenance revenue lost by not buying gas (yes, I know that may not be where the money actually goes).

Business models are changing and its gonna be bumpy ride while things sort themselves out.

O

I am no big fan of the power companies, but as others have said, when you use power at night, you are using the grid to do so. If you use the grid, why shouldn't you pay to use it? The solution to this problem is to cancel your Edison service and disconnect yourself from the grid. If that works from you then great, you won't have to pay.

More detail:

What most people don't understand is that the cost of the power itself is a pass through. The utilities don't technically make any extra money if they sell more or less power because they simply charge what they pay for the electricity itself.

what they are allowed to charge customers for is the costs that they incur building and maintaining the infrastructure that you use to bring power to your house. Those costs are built into the rate that everyone pays (based on a complicated formula that estimates the TOTAL usage of power across the whole system and tries to figure out what to charge so that these "capital costs" are recouped by the power company on a yearly basis). If you put power into the grid during the day and use it at night, you may end up with $0 is usage charges and therefore you are not paying to maintain the facilities that you use to bring power to your house at night.

So the "usage" fee is fair if you use the system to bring power to your house.

A few comments.

1) In many jurisdictions it is ILLEGAL to disconnect yourself from the grid.

2) Having a "base" charge for every resident regardless of usage should cover the cost of maintaining the grid. If I conserve energy I don't get slapped with a surcharge because I did so, but if I conserve energy by providing my own I do? That's insane.

This isnt the first time this nonsense has happened. LADWP has been screaming to conserve water... fining people for watering lawns on certain days etc. So, people conserved water. Then they RAISED THE RATES because of the lost revenue caused by conservation. Think those rates ever came back down? Of course not.

Utilities could easily set up a "minimum service charge" (some already do) that helps defray the cost of the grid, but penalizing solar users who are already being used and ripped off is insanity. Whats going to happen is people will simply put in batteries and not feed the power back to the grid, causing more problems.

On the flip side, 10 bucks isn't exactly a lot of money, but as I said, a minimum bill makes more sense.

So, all of you don't use electricity from the grid at all? You could basically disconnect completely and be self-sufficient?

If you even use 1 minute of electricity during the day, someone has to pay to build all the wires to your house.

Not saying what they're charging is reasonable, but also I don't think that you can get away with paying nothing, if you use the grid at other times when you need it.

Some appear to be mis-understanding the issue. Solar providers are already greatly subsidizing the Grid by providing excess electricity at the cheapest prices possible during peak time, when the wholesale prices paid by the utilities are the highest. This difference is pure profit for the utilities. So why should solar providers subsidize the grid further?

If they want to charge a separate maintenance fee for the grid, then solar providers should be paid the market wholesale rate that the utilities are paying every other provider during peak time of the day.

@mdemetri - the problem is that solar does NOT produce at peak usage times, there is a time shift of a couple of hours. That causes problems for the utility. SolarCity and others are starting to offer 8kWh batteries for home solar which are sufficient to buffer the solar peak production to the peak usage in the afternoon.

@mdemetri - look at Germany - the larges solar power producer in the world... they just moved from solar incentives to battery incentives. I was wondering why Elon was saying Germany is the most important market for Tesla... Teslas main product is battery systems not cars.

Kleist

Peak time is different in southern vs Northern California. Here in SoCal it is from 10am-6pm, the same peak time for solar generation.

I know about Germany and that's what I want to happen here. Let solar become so prevalent that daytime wholesale prices drop for everyone else. This is the market working, but here they are trying to pop up the old model of utilities and suppress reused entail solar with this bill.

Medemetri Yes there do seem to many inaccuracies, invalid assumptions and emotionally driven gaps in logic presented in this thread. I started to write up a detailed response but it became too long and probably too boring for most folks.

My opinion is that PG&E's NEM is an amazingly sweet deal for the residential consumer with PV. They get compensated at the full retail rate for energy they generate up to their yearly consumption. This is WAAAAY too generous, and needs to be scaled back and consumers should get paid only the wholesale value of the excess energy they generate.

Commercial customers also encounter a Demand charge which may seem very foreign to residential customers, but may be coming their way too. Demand charges are incurred based on the maximum level of power you consumed in typically the last 12 months. In addition to paying for the total kWh energy consumed, it's fair to think about the additional cost of customers that have high peak usage, and charge them for the infrastructure needed to supply their larger need.

Consider two homes, one with a Tesla and HPWC. Both have solar size to match their total yearly consumption. The home with theTesla has a larger PV system. Their total yearly bills would each be zero. The Tesla home would pull maybe 20kw more peak power when charging than the other home. And the PV system on the Tesla home would push more peak power into the grid, especially on sunny cool spring and fall days with low local AC loads.

So the Tesla home will need to have a larger transformer and other infrastructure to support the larger peak power flows, but the net yearly energy flow is zero for both houses.

Should the owner with the higher peak power infrastructure requirements have to pay more? (He had net zero energy usage just like the other guy, so it can't be fixed by playing with the kWh rates) If so how should that be recovered? The commercial world uses Demand Charges for this... seems like a fair thing to bring to the residential space.

Adding PV to the grid also adds complexity and thus cost to running the grid. Your PV sourced kWhs require adjustment of the grid distribution equipment to keep your neighbors from experiencing overvoltage scenarios when you're generating and undervoltage scenarios when you stop generating. So the kWh you buy from the utility is more valuable than the kWh you give back to the utility in that same ToU period because your kWhs are "swimming upstream" and can cause grid instability unless the distribution network compensates for your injected energy.

So being paid the full retail rate for your kWhs as NEM currently does is being very (extremely overly) generous. Even being paid the wholesale rate for the energy component alone would be generous since your kWhs come with additional distribution network management requirements to keep the grid stable.

So my advice is to be glad that we have a generous NEM program already, and hope that they don't change it too much going forward. Because the fair, scalable and right long term thing to do would be to lower the compensation rates from where they currently are. Once they do that then they may be likely to remove the generation cap on residential PV and raise the rate for excess annual generation that you're mostly complaining about.

Should be "prop up" and "residential solar"; damn autocorrect.

@Kleist

Great insight! The car is the packaging. Just like a book is the packaging for the publisher's main product, paper.

@mdemetri - the houses in southern cal must have paper thin walls. In norther cal it takes 2-3 hours until the outside heat crawls through the walls and makes the A/C work hardest. Not that we have many A/C days at all. If I look at my usage besides A/C it is cooking and TV between 5pm and 10pm. Otherwise we are on the same page.
@lbjack - cars are the lure for us to shell out the high prices for battery and create enough demand to get the battery prices down and create incentives for better batteries. Best of all you have better batteries for cars then the old production doesn't just have to stop you still have a market for stationary applications. And used car batteries are paid for, but still perfect for grid applications ( PG&E has an initative for used EV batteries for grid buffering ). The world car business is about one trillion $, the worlds electricity is a tens of trillons $ business. In contrast to gas which you can store in a bucket, electricity is use it or loose it. According to a Lawrence Livermore study we waste about 61% of our energy. As long it is cheaper to waste then to store we will waste. Solution: build cheap electron buckets. Elon said it was stupid to start a car company these days, only he didn't tell you he wasn't actually starting a car company. This year 20k cars degraded to 70% means he produces 1.2 GWh of electrical storages. Twice as much next year and multiply this by years and you know where we are headed - massive electrical buckets.

When these laws are not made by consumer advocates, you need to wonder their validity.

One of the best kept trade secrets in the USA is, if you have extra money, and you want to install lots of solar panels to sell the surplus electricity back to utility company for a handsome profit then forget it!

Utility would audit your home and make sure you are NOT installing a solar farm for profit!

According to

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_metering

Électricité de France pays homeowners for home-produced energy at a higher price than what is charged as consumers.

Germany homeowners sell their solar electricity from a separate meter that was several times the retail rate (now not as high but you can still make a profit off your solar.)

These US laws are an attack to home grown solar energy producers.

We are beneficial to the environment as well as also to Corporation's bottom line.

So don't treat us like leeches for their power grid!

If they don't want to pay $6.85 billion for a Southern Co. nuclear power plant

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142412788732444810457861431113810434...

, then they need us to shift the initial capital cost to us.

It's a known technical reason that they cannot shut down their generators each night and all extra energy is wasted and they are calling us leeches?

Fair is fair. Even French and Germany utility companies make money by catering home solar. It is time that the US of A needs to catch up with Germany and stop scapegoating home solar panels.

Focus at the goal of green energy, not these ripoff laws!!!!

One way to hedge this risk is to size your solar system to 80-90% of your actual usage. You then stay in the lowest "base" rate for PG&E (d/k about other utilities). You're going to pay network and distribution charges anyway and the generation rate is very low almost everywhere in the US. Said another way, targeting a $30-$40 monthly electricity bill gives you the best risk-managed return.

You have to do some pretty careful math to figure out your total usage, though, since it's dependent on how much you use your MS, etc...

Germany and France federally subsidize those higher rates paid to consumers for green energy, btw.

BVS,

The bill (AB 327), in a nutshell, is going to ding you, if you conseve energy, and give you a break if you waste energy! That part is fairly evident. Thus, the complete oppisite of what is currently the rule now, would happen.

In other words... If you are currently at a Tier 1 rate (regardless if you produce power via solar, wind, etc or not), paying a lower per kWh fee because you have been responsable, you would no longer get a break for your conservation efforts, and would actually pay a higher rate than say someone who is currently at a Tier 5 rate.
Thus, consumers who have been of the mentality that buying LED lights, newer energy efficient appliances, and setting their thermostates at 78 during the summer months, would pay a HIGHER $$$ per kWh rate, than someone who still has old incondecent lights burning 24/7, old appliances, and sets their A/C at 68 degrees during the summer months.

The bill literally prases those who waste, and screws those who conserve! (about as backware thinking as you can get, during a time when our resources are literally depleteing at an astrominical rate, while our population and infrastructure grows even faster.

The bill is so completely ruthless and reckless in its mentality, it boggles the mind that anyone could remotely consider Gov Brown a liberal, enviromentalist, much less a Democrat, if he passes it.


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