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Calif electric rate bill AB 327, watch out solar PV owners

Posted: Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:14 pm
by Boomer23
LA Times article about AB 327 (Perea), a bill which has been making its way through the Calif legislature after being haggled over and amended "as investor-owned electric companies wrangled with consumer groups, roof-top solar-power companies, environmentalists, manufacturers and farmers over half a dozen complex elements that affect rates."

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-e ... 6513.story" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
People living in temperate climates along the coast would probably see higher bills. Those in torrid regions β€” the San Joaquin Valley, the Inland Empire and the Mojave Desert β€” would get some rate relief.
Rate changes would not be implemented until the CPUC " conducts a detailed, technical investigation."
Additionally, the PUC would have the authority to charge all ratepayers a fixed monthly fee of up to $10 each."
So solar PV owners who currently pay only a small service charge, and I assume that includes those who are leasing their solar PV, may end up paying a monthly charge of some kind to the utility.
The measure is backed by the three utilities, consumer groups such as the Utility Reform Network and the Greenlining Institute, the AARP and other senior citizens groups, the California Retailers Assn. and the national Solar Energy Industries Assn., among others.

Opponents include the Sierra Club, the California Manufacturers & Technology Assn. and the California League of Food Processors.

Manufacturers said they feared that raising the renewable target could make California's already high electric rates even higher. Farmers and growers, who invested in expensive solar power equipment, worried that they could be shortchanged by a shift in the rules for earning credits for excess power.

The Sierra Club objected to a provision that would allow the PUC to charge the $10 fixed monthly fee for maintenance of the grid.

The fee, said Kathryn Phillips, the club's state director, "has no real purpose other than to discourage investment in roof-top solar and energy efficiency" by lengthening the time needed to reap a payback from their expensive renewable systems.

Edison argued that the charge is an equitable way to make sure that everyone who uses the grid, including people who get most of their energy from roof-top solar, pay a portion of the fixed costs of maintaining thousands of miles of transmission and distribution lines.
As someone who installed a 5 kW DC rooftop solar PV system over 6 years ago and who hasn't paid an electric bill since, I'm somewhat torn. I tend to agree that we are using the grid as a massive storage battery, and getting that for free while our neighbors pay to maintain the system is probably not right. On the other hand, our expensive rooftop PV systems make clean, renewable power at exactly the time of day when the state needs it, during sunny daytimes, and we use power at night, when there is less demand and the utilities need to sell more power. So we are already helping the state in a huge way.

Aside from the possibility of a small monthly charge, I wonder if changes in the rate structures could affect the large retail credits that we earn when we generate solar power during Peak hours due to tiered rates. I was told by an Edison employee some time ago that people who are currently on TOU rate plans would be grandfathered when rate changes like this take effect. But that was offhand talk. We'll see.

I'm interested in what the Forum community knows about the details of this. Are we going to see just an annoying $10 monthly fee or are rate structures going to change drastically enough to disrupt the equations that residents used to justify the large capital purchase of a solar PV system?

Re: Calif electric rate bill AB 327, watch out solar PV owne

Posted: Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:32 pm
by Boomer23
Here's a timely review of some of the detail changes that brought the California solar industry into line supporting the bill.

Interesting stuff, but as the last line of the article says: β€œthe devil will be in the details hammered out at the CPUC.”

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/ ... ded-ab-327" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Re: Calif electric rate bill AB 327, watch out solar PV owne

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2013 7:46 am
by sparky
Thanks Boomer, I'll have to read more about this.
The $10 for "maintenance of the grid" looks clumsy. Why $10? Based on what, an amount they figured rate-payers wouldn't notice?

My immediate thoughts:
The alt-energy market is pretty dynamic and there's tension in play between residential / industrial alt-energy generators and the traditional utilities. As you point out, your rooftop solar helps reduce the load at peak times. So, some acknowledgement ( in $ ) of that seems fair. Also, you and I and almost everyone with rooftop solar use the grid as our nighttime & winter battery so we need to acknowledge ( in $ ) that. I have a hard time trusting the utilities to be honest and open with costing the real benefits and detriments of distributed private energy as part of the grid. I've been to two public meetings with utility officials regarding plans for alt-energy incorporation and they were openly hostile to residential PV. We are a "problem".

I have a roof with enough sun exposure to supply my house and 25k mi/year of EV driving. It's an asset almost all SoCal homeowners should take advantage of IMO.
I have 4 cars, two are EVs. 3-4 car households are common in my neighborhood. Look ahead 10 years. I may still have 4 cars but they'll all be EVs. I'll have 100kWh of battery sitting in the garage or driveway at all times.

$10/mo becomes $4k on many PV pay-back time scales. Battery prices are dropping, PV prices are cheap. At some point, with this fee and other connection fees, the cost for some residential and industrial alt-energy producers to stay "on the grid" becomes too high and they disconnect. That exacerbates the "have/have-not" problem now where fewer and fewer rate-payers are available to support the grid. I think this can be avoided with honest and smart give-and-take between utilities and private generators (us) and some forward thinking. But, it seems like our legislators and utilities are always "fighting the last war".

Re: Calif electric rate bill AB 327, watch out solar PV owne

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:24 am
by smkettner
If it was up to me the State would buy out the invester owned utilities. Once the debt was paid it would be non profit municipal owned utility.

Re: Calif electric rate bill AB 327, watch out solar PV owne

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:29 am
by TomT
The only thing that seems to make sense to me, and which is sustainable, is for the power company to buy power from the PV owner at wholesale and then sell power to the PV owner at retail...
This is how it is in any other business or industry...

Re: Calif electric rate bill AB 327, watch out solar PV owne

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:35 am
by thankyouOB
LADWP, which has some of the best and most supportive PV and EV solar subsidies and rates, charges $8 per month as a service fee.
You can easily offset it on the TOU rates with your choice of panels.
the problem is when rates are changed AFTER you have made your calculation and installed the system. typically, rates go up, especially in summer daytimes and other peak solar power production periods, so you benefit, but adding charges can take you in the other direction.

Re: Calif electric rate bill AB 327, watch out solar PV owne

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:50 am
by smkettner
Maybe the monthly connection fee should be matched to the PV rating.
Something like $2 per month per DC kW. No charge for first 2 kW.

Re: Calif electric rate bill AB 327, watch out solar PV owne

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:18 am
by camasleaf
Since I put the panels back May, my net meeter still shows a 1.3 MW delivered more than consumed :D (being in vacation for a month helped). I did not pay any electricity, but I do have a $12 monthly "basic service fee", that I believe it used to be $8 last year.

Re: Calif electric rate bill AB 327, watch out solar PV owne

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:30 am
by DaveEV
sparky wrote:My immediate thoughts:
Nice comment, sparky.
sparky wrote:I have a roof with enough sun exposure to supply my house and 25k mi/year of EV driving. It's an asset almost all SoCal homeowners should take advantage of IMO.
Definitely. And many people have the roof for more than enough PV to cover their own uses - wouldn't it be great if we could install more PV that we could use and sell that excess electricity and get a fair rate (Petition that proposes just that - please sign!)? No, the current 0.04 / kWh is not fair considering the time of day PV systems export their energy.

Like most, I am not necessarily opposed to some sort of "grid fee". But at the same time, I would want to be fairly compensated for the actual value of the energy I am exporting/consuming based on a fair valuation of that energy based on the time of day, the fact that it's emissions free energy, etc.
TomT wrote:The only thing that seems to make sense to me, and which is sustainable, is for the power company to buy power from the PV owner at wholesale and then sell power to the PV owner at retail...
That is currently how any "excess" energy on an annual period is credited to a net-generation customer. But that energy is only credited at something like 0.04 / kWh which is the generic "wholesale" rate.

But yet, current PPAs for utility scale solar PV are being signed for the next 15-25 years for 3-4x that price.

Re: Calif electric rate bill AB 327, watch out solar PV owne

Posted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 2:13 am
by pchilds
smkettner wrote:Maybe the monthly connection fee should be matched to the PV rating.
Something like $2 per month per DC kW. No charge for first 2 kW.
How is the utility going to know, how many kWs of PV I have. :twisted: