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Solar customers might be zapped by rule changes
...But then the utilities regulators changed the equation.

Pacific Gas & Electric recently did away with the rate schedule chosen by Holtmann, a retired electrical engineer, and many other solar customers in this part of California. The new schedule will make them pay much more for the electricity they draw from the grid in the evening, while paying those customers less for the excess power their solar panels send back to the grid on sunny summer days.

As a result, Holtmann’s solar setup may never pay for itself.
During the first quarter of this year alone, at least 10 states were weighing or approving rate design measures that could undermine the economic appeal of home solar systems, according to data compiled by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center.
Not long after moving into his house in 1973, Holtmann installed a solar water heater. The first set of solar panels went on the roof around 2008. That slashed his annual electric bill to $78 from about $1,300. But the bill shot up again after he bought the new car, a Chevrolet Volt electric hybrid, so he bought a second set of panels in 2014.
He installed his panels “with the understanding that the rules were going to be the rules,” he said. “And then they changed the rules.”
Note: An attempt was made in 2013 by our utility to change the rules. The discussion was later tabled and letters sent to existing customers. I have filed away my letter from them declaring that my system's plan is grandfathered for life.
 

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Not to defend the utilities, but what might be happening is that as more solar customers are being added the supply curve is changing. For example, historically in California the demand would challenge supply in the summer during the afternoons. As more solar systems have come on line this is no longer true. Sometimes there is an excess supply in the afternoons in the summer. Consequently you may see peak demand pricing change. This seems to be what is happening in the PG&E example -- lower prices in the afternoon.

California utilities are moving to time of day pricing for all customers so it's not as if they can come up with special pricing simply for solar customers (they can certainly try but it's not straightforward since you can move to the genera TOD price schedule).
 

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Not to defend the utilities, but what might be happening is that as more solar customers are being added the supply curve is changing. For example, historically in California the demand would challenge supply in the summer during the afternoons. As more solar systems have come on line this is no longer true. Sometimes there is an excess supply in the afternoons in the summer. Consequently you may see peak demand pricing change. This seems to be what is happening in the PG&E example -- lower prices in the afternoon.

California utilities are moving to time of day pricing for all customers so it's not as if they can come up with special pricing simply for solar customers (they can certainly try but it's not straightforward since you can move to the genera TOD price schedule).
When homeowners are arrested for using rain water and living off grid, that's a problem.
 

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...as more solar customers are being added the supply curve is changing.
Then the utilities should be directed by the commission to only bill for net usage. Why would the utility company care if my meter rolls backwards? It's a money grab if they do care. What is the difference if we conserve during peak or make our own? The net use will be the same.

As long as utilities charge more for peak, more people will consider solar since it is getting competitive with off-peak rates in some areas. And way less expensive than on-peak or demand rates.

"On December 20, 2015 a low-pressure weather system crossed through the Texas panhandle and created sustained wind speeds of 20 to 30 mph. The burst of wind propelled Texas to surpass its all-time record for wind energy production, with wind providing 45 percent of the state’s total electricity needs — or 13.9 gigawatts of electric power — at its peak."

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/plugged-in/texas-sets-new-all-time-wind-energy-record/
 

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The traditional peak demand period has changed because of privately funded solar installations flowing clean renewable energy back into the grid. Customer demand has actually gone up during this period but the utilities have not had to build power generation or transmission facilities to match this increase in demand because of privately funded solar. Now, by shifting the peak demand period (and highest rate structure) to the evening the utilities protect their profits by negating the cost benefits of solar. So let me pose a question, is solar good, is it helpful to society? If so, should utilities be allowed to crush it?

This is one reason I'm closely watching the progress of battery storage like Tesla's Power Wall for potential use as a key element for a hybrid electrical system, one part connected to the grid with no solar component and a second part with totally separated circuits powered by solar and buffered with battery storage. The off-grid part would power my high demand items like home heat pump and EV. If there isn't adequate power stored in the battery I do without the heat pump and use gas heating and plugin my EV EVSE into a grid based 115 or 230 VAC outlet.
 

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I see utilities treating solar energy consumers unfairly, since that energy is free (no fuel consumption). Our local utility PREPA is under fire for increasing the basic rate ($0.23 per kWh now) while being restructured, yet they created a high paying position ($950,000 a year) and want to increase the rate again to cover billion-dollar debts. The power consumption has dropped such that one of the four genering plants is offline, and supposed to be converted from bunker oil to natural gas.

We are getting more reasons to convert to solar now than ever. I may be one more convert to generate up to 5kW per hour locally during the day and install central A/C (I have a window unit), so the Sun will help cool my home during the day only. I haven't calculated the final investment, and I don't trust the lease plans being offered by "solar providers".
 

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I see utilities treating solar energy consumers unfairly, since that energy is free (no fuel consumption). Our local utility PREPA is under fire for increasing the basic rate ($0.23 per kWh now) while being restructured, yet they created a high paying position ($950,000 a year) and want to increase the rate again to cover billion-dollar debts. The power consumption has dropped such that one of the four genering plants is offline, and supposed to be converted from bunker oil to natural gas.

We are getting more reasons to convert to solar now than ever. I may be one more convert to generate up to 5kW per hour locally during the day and install central A/C (I have a window unit), so the Sun will help cool my home during the day only. I haven't calculated the final investment, and I don't trust the lease plans being offered by "solar providers".
Even if you're going to own the system, the payoff period given to you by the solar installer may not actually be that. I was given an estimate of about 8 years, based on annual increases of 4%. However, they simply used a single cents per KWhr calculation, and the actual calculation is much more complex. For instance, if we generate more power then we use, there's a $19 minimum charge (which I have no problem paying, as this is for line maintenance), which is not taken into account. Also, if you don't produce more power than you use, where I live, there's a sliding scale that varies from 38cents/KWhr (low energy withdrawal from grid) to about 18cents/KWhr (high energy withdrawal from grid). So, my 8 year payback is really longer. Also, my actual cost to charge my Volt could be quite high, if I have low energy withdrawal from the grid.
 

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Even if you're going to own the system, the payoff period given to you by the solar installer may not actually be that. I was given an estimate of about 8 years, based on annual increases of 4%. However, they simply used a single cents per KWhr calculation, and the actual calculation is much more complex. For instance, if we generate more power then we use, there's a $19 minimum charge (which I have no problem paying, as this is for line maintenance), which is not taken into account. Also, if you don't produce more power than you use, where I live, there's a sliding scale that varies from 38cents/KWhr (low energy withdrawal from grid) to about 18cents/KWhr (high energy withdrawal from grid). So, my 8 year payback is really longer. Also, my actual cost to charge my Volt could be quite high, if I have low energy withdrawal from the grid.
Geez,

That really IS complex! Our net-metering plan is much less complicated.
 

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Well as long as they don't monkey with my net metering policy her in NYS, I can live as is. I generate enough credits from march thru October that I burn off through winter into early spring. However if I had no credits built up and say I drew on the utility and then my meter was read, I would pay whatever rate it is, in our case we have same rate 24x7 for residents as far as I last checked. So life is good still now near 5yrs with solar and NO electric bill, bare minimum car gas bill and even reduced oil heating bill because of my excess credits being burned up space heating. I do pay $50 bucks connection charge like every util customer every 2 months.
 

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Not to defend the utilities, but what might be happening is that as more solar customers are being added the supply curve is changing. For example, historically in California the demand would challenge supply in the summer during the afternoons. As more solar systems have come on line this is no longer true. Sometimes there is an excess supply in the afternoons in the summer. Consequently you may see peak demand pricing change. This seems to be what is happening in the PG&E example -- lower prices in the afternoon.

California utilities are moving to time of day pricing for all customers so it's not as if they can come up with special pricing simply for solar customers (they can certainly try but it's not straightforward since you can move to the genera TOD price schedule).
I don't see how that is possible. Solar production only accounts for a small fraction of the total power produced, and its production is very predictable. More than likely, investors who forked over millions (billions?) of dollars for quick cycling natural gas power plants are throwing their weight around in an attempt to discourage solar adoption.
 

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I don't see how that is possible. Solar production only accounts for a small fraction of the total power produced, and its production is very predictable. More than likely, investors who forked over millions (billions?) of dollars for quick cycling natural gas power plants are throwing their weight around in an attempt to discourage solar adoption.

Or perhaps they are simply looking for each and every easy way to offset the $1-2 billion they owe from the judgement against them for the San Bruno gas pipeline fire.
 

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I don't see how that is possible. Solar production only accounts for a small fraction of the total power produced, and its production is very predictable.
Well we should be able to agree that what is, is possible. It's called the "duck curve" and the California ISO has been dealing with it.

http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/solar-energys-duck-curve/
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-21/california-s-duck-curve-is-about-to-jolt-the-electricity-grid

And yes, the ability to store the electricity would solve the problem. My point was that increasing the price per kWh during periods of very high supply from rooftop solar systems would make the problem worse. Reducing the price paid would ameliorate it.
 

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If I lived in CA, I would probably be off grid, except possibly for natural gas.

Everything written here only exemplifies why its more important than every to just get off grid.
 

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Well we should be able to agree that what is, is possible. It's called the "duck curve" and the California ISO has been dealing with it.

http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/solar-energys-duck-curve/
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-21/california-s-duck-curve-is-about-to-jolt-the-electricity-grid
So this isn't a problem with power production; it is a problem with communication.

I agree with your point about increasing price during peak periods exacerbating the problem. If solar becomes more prevalent, then they should simple change what is considered peak and off-peak times. Personal solar systems have an almost identical effect as if the owner had a "kill switch" that turns off all electric appliances in the home while he/she is away for the day. I think they are analyzing the impact of solar the wrong way. At the end of the day, it can just be looked at as negative demand.
 
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