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.
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.He installed his panels “with the understanding that the rules were going to be the rules,” he said. “And then they changed the rules.”