Just got a $1 electric bill
MarkC Solar Expert Posts: 212 ✭✭✭
The first for me - the solar energy credits paid essentially all Grid energy, fixed and distribution costs resulting in a $1 bill for last month.
3850 watts - 14 - 275SW SolarWorld Panels, 4000 TL-US SMA Sunny Boy Grid tied inverter. 2760 Watts - 8 - 345XL Solar World Panels, 3000 TL-US SMA Sunny Boy GT inverter. 3000 watts SMA/SPS power. PV "switchable" to MidNite Classic 250ks based charging of Golf cart + spare battery array of 8 - 155 AH 12V Trojans with an APC SMT3000 - 48 volt DC=>120 Volt AC inverter for emergency off-grid. Also, "PriUPS" backup generator with APC SURT6000/SURT003 => 192 volt DC/240 volt split phase AC inverter.
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Oh well, it was a nice ride while for a while.
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I'm in California getting electricity from PG&E on a TOU program with a $10 a month minimum.
It was pointed out to me that I was being subsidized by the other 96.3% of PG&E customers that didn't have solar.
I pointed out that will I was living inland and paying those top tier prices during the summer I was subsidizing those PG&E customers on the coast that don't need air conditioning and hit those higher tier prices. Got no reply to that.
I too have PG&E and they have raised the minimum electric charge to $10 now. And they have discontinued the (very nice for solar folks) plan--And I have to choose one of the less good ones (peak rates to near ~8-9pm at night--not much sun here).
The tiered rate (the more power you use, the higher PG&E charges per kWattHour) is a left over from the energy crisis of the 1970's.
So--being in California, "we" have kept the punitive rates for those that use "too much power".
It is sort of like going to Costco and paying 2x more for items in bulk vs buying at the local market. It does not make sense from a pure economics point of view.
However--There are reasons why the present Net Metering plan for Solar Power does not make a lot of sense for the accounts at utilities.
More or less (very roughly), ~1/2 of your power bill goes to buying power from the electric generator station, and the other 1/2 goes to paying for distribution (power poles, transformers, trucks and labor, rent for land used by the utility, billing costs, customer service, etc.). And (again very roughly), the cost for generator power is ~1/2 for the generator station, and the other ~1/2 goes for paying for fuel (coal, oil, natural gas, etc.).
For a utility customer that uses lots of power during peak times (such as A/C and water pumping in the California Central Valley)--The utility has to "size" the generator stations and distribution lines to carry the maximum demand of the customers/region. If the "valley" only uses peak power for 6 months of the year, then the rest of the time, the utility has "excess capacity" that still needs to be paid for. Peaker power plants that are shut down for the season, etc. (peaker plants tend to be much more expensive per kWH vs "base load" plants like coal and nuclear).
You can click on the California Independent System Operator website and see the 24 hour forecast of power usage (something like 85% of the electric power in the state). Right now (near spring), there is not a large difference between early morning and evening power usage. During the summer time--The difference between minimum load and peak loads are much higher.
In the old days, the utility would advertise people to get washers and dryers... They were typically operated "off peak" and helped increase power usage during lower power usage times.
Today, they are trying to get to "real time pricing"--The last plan I saw the utility would give you a 24 hour "contract" (or forecast) of your $/kWH price. And the customer could decide to run the washer, A/C, electric oven, electric water heater the next day (and what time) or not.
While I certainly understand the "accounting problem" of Grid Tied Solar customers buying and selling back power to the utility at "retail rates". I am not in favor of real-time pricing either. We sort of had that with California's "electric deregulation" back in the early 2000's which darn near bankrupted our major electric utilities--And made huge amounts of money for Enron, Los Angeles Water and Power, etc... And left us with something like a $25 Billion Bond to pay for those "extortionary power rates" that the state of California stuck us with (not really a "free market"--Just a screwed up regulatory scheme).
I cannot give you an exact answer if folks in the Valley are subsidizing those of us on the coast (don't use A/C, use natural gas for cooking/heating). I do agree with you that the tiered rate plan with ever increasing charges for "high to excessive" power usage (some regulatory folks decide what is "excessive" power usage) is probably not fair.
However, there are definitely costs for those folks that use a variable amount of power (over the day, and between seasons) that need to be accounted for. And why some folks (farmers, firms that use large amounts of electricity seasonal) still use co-generation systems, and use off grid power systems (diesel and natural gas fired generators, etc.).
However, in California--Fixed diesel generators (and off road vehicles, forklifts, etc.) are now being hit with pollution control requirements (and, remember, to the government CO2 is a "pollutant")--And getting approvals for these gensets is getting harder and harder (and the state is making parts companies report when people by spare parts for this equipment so they can "talk to folks" later about their "pollution profile" and permits, if any--I guess).
MORE FROM NEVADA !
Nevada's home solar business is in turmoil as the state's Public Utilities Commission starts to phase out incentives for homeowners who install rooftop solar panels. Some of the largest solar companies have stopped seeking new business in the state and laid off hundreds of workers.
Even for small solar installers, this once-booming business has slowed to a trickle. The warehouse at Robco Electric in Las Vegas was filled to capacity with pallets of solar panels stacked high last year. Now, it's nearly empty.
"The PUC made a decision and it just devastated our industry," says Robco President Rob Kowalczik. He's all business when talking about how the PUC sided with the utility and pretty much killed off residential solar in Nevada. But when it comes to his workers, he chokes up.
"The hardest thing is to lay people off," says Kowalczik. So far, his company has let 25 people go. The solar division of his company is down to a few salespeople and one installation crew.
Connie Berry was a solar installer at Robco Electric but was laid off after the company's sales sharply dropped.
One of the 25 is Connie Berry. She was just a few months into her job as an installer for Robco. Now, she's looking for work in the construction business, but she holds out hope her solar job will come back.
"It's been two months now since I got laid off, and I was hoping to get a call back. ... I got my tools. I'm ready to go," says Berry.
In front of Robco Electric, you're more likely now to see the company's sales cars parked in the middle of the day. Sales and marketing manager Tim Webb says last year they would have been out chasing down new leads all day. He says there were a lot of other solar companies on the road, too.
"It was kind of like the solar gold rush here. All these companies flocked into town, set up an office and sold systems. Now they're gone. There's just a few of us remaining," says Webb.
Companies like SolarCity say they were left with no choice but to stop doing business in Nevada when the PUC changed the rules for something called "net metering."
Robco Electric Sales and Marketing Manager Tim Webb shows off a solar panel from his sales kit. Since regulators have phased out solar incentives, his car often sits in the company parking lot.
Net metering allows homeowners with solar panels to sell excess electricity they generate to the utility at retail rather than wholesale rates. It's a great deal for homeowners because they can do something good for the environment and save money on their energy bills.
But every kilowatt generated on someone's roof is one less the local utility sells. And utilities use that ratepayer money to maintain the electrical grid.
In this case, the local utility, NV Energy, is owned by Warren Buffett's company Berkshire Hathaway. During an interview with CNBC last month, Buffett echoed an argument utilities across the country have been making: When solar customers don't pay to maintain the power grid, that leaves everyone else to pick up the tab.
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