Electric Utilities Now Fighting Home Solar As Threat To Their Business

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Solar Panels by Flickr user Chandra Marsono

Solar Panels by Flickr user Chandra Marsono

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For owners of electric vehicles, powering their homes and cars using solar panels mounted on the roof are a win-win scenario.

Not only do they get to drive past every gas station, but home electricity bills are reduced or even eliminated.

That's great news for the end user, but not so much for the utility companies. Caught napping by rising demand for solar, the energy industry now wants to stem its spread before their own profits are harmed.

As The New York Times reports, the industry understands that rooftop solar is currently only a tiny proportion of all power being generated--less than a quarter of one percent.

However, they also know it'll rise in the coming years, aided by government incentives they feel will eventually threaten the existence of the industry.

Part of this is down to the system of net metering, which pays customers and businesses for excess energy they generate and sell back to utilities. In states where consumers are paid the wholesale price, this isn't a problem--but in states like California, with large incentives based on daytime retail rates, energy companies get the short straw.

As more customers move to rooftop solar systems, say energy companies, the discrepancy could result in huge amounts of lost revenue--up to $1.4 billion per year, according to California's top three utilities.

Should this shortfall be made up by charging non-solar customers extra (all 7.6 million of them, in this example), it could add $185 a year to people's bills.

Well, that's if the figures are correct--solar advocates cite studies suggesting the credit system can actually mean net savings for utilities. And Adam Browning from advocacy group Vote Solar told The New York Times, the current net metering system "is the only way for customers to get value for their rooftop solar systems" at the moment.

Then there are the benefits associated with moving power generation closer to where it's used--reducing load on the grid--and reducing the cost for utilities of maintaining a wide infrastructure and large generators.

The counter-argument? Customers who no longer pay for electricity no longer pay for upkeep of the current system--moving cost to other consumers. It's a situation which goes back to the root of the utility companies' problems: Customers fed up of paying extra for their electricity will likely move to solar themselves, accelerating rooftop solar use and leaving major utilities with fewer and fewer customers.

It could be a long time before such a situation occurs, but some utilities are already investing in home solar themselves to mitigate these future issues.

In the meantime, the main solar battleground is California, and many utilities there are still pushing for lower credit and participation figures for rooftop solar. It's a fight we can expect for some time to come--but ultimately, the customer themselves is winning in the short term: Competition leads to better service and lower prices...

Do you have a rooftop solar system on your home? Just how much are you saving over regular utility rates? Leave your comments below.


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Comments (98)
  1. I live in California and put solar on my roof two years ago. Our utility (PG&E) made every step of the process as difficult as possible - rejecting applications, requiring design reviews, etc. They held my rebate up for months while haggling over petty issues, often failing to respond for weeks at a time.

    I now generate 108% of my daily electrical usage and for the excess the utility pays me a pitiful 3.5 cents/kWh (the "wholesale rate")

    I just recently purchased a plug-in hybrid and instead of selling those 800 kWh to PG&E, I can charge the car's battery and drive for practically nothing. That energy will now power me for 2400 miles at the rate of about a penny a mile. It's like having a car that gets 400 MPG at today's gas prices.

  2. As plug-in cars and rooftop solar go mainstream, power companies will be forced to change their billing structure.

    In other words, in the future, there will be a minimum monthly payment. If you want to be connected to the grid, you'll have to pay for it.

    At that point, if battery costs have come down, more people will start disconnecting from the grid entirely. Personal energy independence will become a reality.

  3. Off grid will accelerate when lithium battery systems grow in use. Lad acid systems using AGM deep cycle batteries still have a five year replacement cost. Lithium systems should work for 12-15 years before considering battery replacement.

  4. Hopefully we will use some of the LEAF and other EV battery packs for home energy independence. In another 5-7 years they should start to trickle in. Hate to discourage recycling them, but as long as they are being used and not buried in the landfills it's all good.

  5. PG&E already has a minimum monthly payment to be connected to their grid. I've paid the minimum connection fee even during months when I was a net producer of electricity, accumulating Net Energy Metering credits.

    I don't really want to be disconnected from the grid, since I don't come close to making enough solar in the winter months. I wish my Tesla Model S had a 110V AC outlet that I could run my refrigerator with in the event of a power outage. A DC to 110 V / 2 kW AC inverter is pretty cheap, this would add very little cost to the car.

  6. if PHEV's and EV's would have a plug out circuit, i think sales would go through the roof.

  7. My electric company in Virginia also charges a "Customer Service" fee and we are required to pay a "Stand-by-rotating" fee to cover the cost of operating the electric companies generating equipment when I am not using it.
    I don't know about other people but I installed my solar PV system as the result of concerns for the environment and not to make/save money.

  8. PV is very toxic: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid601325122001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAAAEabvr4~,Wtd2HT-p_Vh4qBcIZDrvZlvNCU8nxccG&bctid=54242460001

  9. @Randall: To put it in context, that clip from the UK's Channel 4 News can be viewed here:

    More details here:

    It was originally aired in December 2009, and won a Foreign Press Association prize for Best Environment Story a year later.

  10. John, there are other options... example: induction electric motors can be used instead of permanent magnet motors (eg Tesla induction motor vs most other HEVs/PEVs PM motors)... plus the lack of environmental regulation led to the Chinese undercutting the price of other mines which made the competitor's mines uneconomic. When the price rises enough, other rare earth sources will come online.

  11. This is what happens in our current capitalistic approach where the need to make a profit trumps all priorities. Until we find a way to make health and middle-class well-being the top priority, greed will continue to win all battles.

  12. I agree completely.

  13. You mean as long as we have the corrupt two party system that does not represent the people. All big business, it seems, wants the people to guarantee their profits. That is not true capitalism. Look out for the electric suppliers to get Congress to declare solar and wind electricity illegal, like was done with Hemp. Time to vote for a green third party.

  14. Spoken like a true socialist... "FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD!!!"

  15. We sized our solar system to generate 100% of our annual usage. During the 9 month approval process we managed to cut our electric usage nearly 20% (CFLs, LEDs, dropped cable). Our utility also buys our excess generation at the wholesale rate (3.2 cents). In an effort to maximize our savings we use our excess kWhs to run space heaters and power a PHEV. Instead of collecting ~$50 from our utility for our excess kWh we saved ~$150 and $500 on home heating and gasoline respectively. Overall Annual savings ~$1,100 out of pocket cost $8,600.

  16. That's great and people like you will drive these utilities to the ground (unless their armies of lawyers will have something to say about that...)

  17. PG&E is one of the most "greed motivated" or put in PC terms, totally capitalistic, companies in this country. Profit being their sin qua non they neglect repairs, as evidenced by the deaths in the Bay Area and Sacramento a year or more earlier due to shoddy gas line upkeep.

    We were 38 year customers of a truly service oriented utility, SMUD, and moved about 6 years ago into PG&E territory. For exactly the same electricity use fromSMUD, our PG&E bill was FOUR TIMES as much!

    There is no reason to be overly sympathetic to such FOR PROFIT utility providers with their highly overpaid executives.

    We went solar by the end of the 6th month of PG&E "service" and installed a large enough PV system to WIPE OUT ALL our monthly electricity costs

  18. These utilities are monopolies and can hardly be described as "capitalistic..."

  19. "in states like California, with large incentives based on daytime retail rates, energy companies get the short straw" -- actually in California utilities buy back excess electricity at their base rate, not the demand rate, so electricity produced during peak demand (afternoon hours), is repurchased by the utility at the rate they'd charge at midnight, so no, they are not getting the short end of the stick...just the reverse. The current utility repurchase rates almost guarantee that electric utility makes money no matter how much consumer solar power is generated, and makes the break-even period for investing in solar power that much longer. All the costs of maintaining the electrical grid are built into that base rate...don't believe it!

  20. PG&E pays me an average 23 cents a KWh for my solar sent back to the grid, and I charge my Tesla Model S starting at midnight for less than 10 cents per kWh. For the billing month ending July 4, I used a net 179 kWh, yet PG&E owed me a small credit. This is the E-6 TOU rate plan.

    If a California homeowner is selling their solar generated electricity to PG&E for the same rate they pay at midnight, then they are on the flat E-1 rate, a bad deal for solar PV owners.

  21. You obviously have the voice of experience. Why did you stay with the E-6 rate instead of moving to the E-9 electric car rate?

  22. I've been on the E-6 rate schedule since last year when I got solar PV. I've had the Tesla Model S for just 1 month (love the car!). I'm looking into E-9A but it's not clearly better than E-6. E-9A has a smaller number of hours that solar would be reimbursed at the peak rate, and partial peak solar has a lower reimbursement rate than with E-6. But E-9A has other advantages over E-6, including much cheaper EV charging after midnight. There is also a new PG&E EV TOU schedule coming available soon, which will not have tiers.

  23. Thanks, Laura. I built a rather complicated spreadsheet to analyze the merits of E-6 over E-9 and E-9 came out on top if you only have an electric car. Solar is a whole new dimension, and it's far from simple. Seasons, tiers, time of use, electric heat, efficiency, solar hot water, electric car, ROI - PG&E may try to discourage spreadsheets, too (except for them). If you see a black Model S, be sure to wave.

  24. Norm, agreed it's pretty complicated to compare PG&E E-6 (optimized for rooftop solar homeowners) and E-9 (optimized for EV owners). I wish PG&E would develop a rate schedule that is clearly optimal for homeowners who have both an EV and solar, there's a lot of us in this category.

    I'm seeing one or more Model S almost every time I take a drive in the SF East Bay. My Model S is white :-)

  25. Correct. If the "electric Company's" profit drops too low they will just ask for a rate hike which will drive more customers to go solar.

  26. I have had a volt for almost two years. I put in 7kW of solar on my home's roof last Nov. 9 Months ago. I average 900 kw production per month and average 800-1100 kw usage every month. Only in February (no ac needed in FL) did I have an overage. That's ok, that's not the point. I practically pay for all my electric needs through solar (cost after rebates is $10,500). FPL was great actually. Rebate returned fast. Follow up surveys asking how to make experience better. I was shocked really. Anyway, now that I use solar I really use about 20-30% less electricity being conservation minded. SO the 10kw/day charging volt doesn't even factor in anymore w savings being conscious of my elec use. Just a psychological advantage...like hypermiling!

  27. I put in a 6kW solar array last year as I was inspired by the possibility of combustion free driving in our Nissan Leaf. Well, I couldn't be happier as my bill's are almost covered by the solar production. The car's 1900kWh of yearly usage is just a little more than a fifth of what I make here. Well, CPS Energy decided that they were going to do away with net metering this spring, even for existing systems. There was quite an uproar and they had to back down and grandfather all existing systems but it's still not written in stone. Bear in mind that this is the largest city owned utility in the US. They are supposed to be making decisions that benefit the residents of this city. The Edison Electrical Institute is behind all of this.

  28. Forgot to mention that I'm in San Antonio, TX.

  29. We also live in CA, but our solar system is a SunRun 20 year lease. It is designed to produce enough power to fuel our LEAF as well as the house, and so far we are generating more power than we use. I'm aiming at the exact balance, give or take a bit, since the net meter rate is so low, as George Buce points out, it's not worth the extra investment. Using SunRun made the install super easy, and by pre-paying the lease, our electricity costs are lower than the lowest residential tier in CA (which has high rates in general).

  30. I use a 4 kw rooftop solar system to 1) charge our Nissan Leaf 2)power our home heating and cooling mini-split heat pump system 3) power our Geospring electric heat pump water heater 4) supply all other home electric requirements. Although I've only had the system installed for three months, it has gotten me a credit with PG&E each month. So, we get 1000 miles of driving the car plus have cut our natural gas use (due to the Geospring heat pump water heater and hanging laundry outside) to only one therm per month. We've zeroed out our utility bill and our gasoline bill is also zero for the Leaf. I figure payback for solar is five years and another three years beyond that for the heat pump system. We're saving everywhere and enjoying AC now.

  31. Been driving my converted electric mr2 powered by my 3.6kw system for the pasy 2 years. I have saved more than 2500 in gas and the small 3.6 kW system covers both our normal use as well as charging the car daily.

  32. Forgot to mention that we bought the solar system about 5 years aho and the payoff accelerated from 20 years to less than 9 years by driving electric. Payback is tracked here: http://blog.mr2ev.com/solar-pay-back/

  33. Thanks for the link Ken - a fascinating read and a great little car!

  34. The paradigm is set to shift, some might say must shift, and as the tech gets more efficient will shift (who in their right mind wouldn't want to generate their own power? Add a storage system to the equation and then it gets really bad for the power companies). As usual the establishment has two options, get on board or alienate. As the article states this is a ways out at the moment, but with the added momentum that electric cars currently are adding to the model it's anyone's guess as to how fast the tech will evolve to meet demand. I think better for them to see infrastructure that has no upkeep costs then to drive people to a "bite me" frame of mind. Entrenched corporate greed really is the lowest form business acumen!

  35. What a bunch of WHINERS. Utility companies STILL charge distribution fees, admin fees, who knows what else fees. Solar panel users need to ensure they are talking to their representatives.

  36. Uhm, if i was unclear, the UTILITY companies are whiners.

  37. Actually, utilities aren't free to change their rates, and the ones which don't charge fees other than per-kW*h indeed have a bit of a problem with net metering.

    I sized my PV system to cover all of my needs; if my yearly net consumption is zero, I'll pay my utility exactly zero.

    While I obviously don't mind, this isn't a fair deal as I still use transmission lines, benefit from generation capacity at night and/or during winter, etc.

    Understandably, utilities are now pushing for a change in the billing structure and/or at the very least, lower the incentives given for solar installations.

    (anyway, one of the largest one in the US, 30% federal tax deduction, is set to expire end 2015 I think)

  38. If you generate more than you produce at any time, then your system puts power back onto the grid where it is immediately consumed by your neighbors. The utility charges them transmission fees when there were none. What the utility loses is the profit on power it didn't sell to you, and that's what this is all about.

  39. Norm, utilities cannot count on me providing them any power: I have no such contract with them, and I could turn into a consumer at any second, just by starting my dryer for example.
    They therefore have to build and maintain the exact same lines, transformers etc regardless of whether I have solar or not.

    This infrastructure is what those transmission fees cover, and that's why they apply regardless of where my neighbors happen to be getting their power from at that specific moment.

  40. You are right.
    Let's say there is a home that is empty for many years. Account canceled and / or the meter pulled.
    The power company still have to upkeep the lines either way going to the home.
    There was a case here where someone bought a home that was not used for 10 years and the power company charged 10 years of fees the house was not used. They went to court and the power company lost the case.

  41. I got my 8.2kW solar array installed at my house in MA in 2011. Last year was my first full year with solar and I saved over $1600 over the average year over the span from 2006-2010, my entire year's electrical bill was $510 vs. over $2100 before solar. Now I've got my Tesla Model S, it will be interesting to compare a full year with the car + solar. About a month ago I got access to free charging at my office so my home usage should go down as well.

    We get back the generation charge but not the delivery charge. So it is best for me to use when I produce, so when I get home from work I plug in immediately. (This doesn't work 6 months out of the year though :-( )

  42. How ludicrous! I personally own my own solar panels - they produce all of the energy I need ... including charging my new Tesla Model S electric car - and they will last for at least another 20 years. I pay only about $5.75 per month in minimum tax for the utility, instead of the $180-200 total that I used to pay. It is money in the bank for me - good investment! Soon, I will also have a Tesla back-up battery which will also allow my solar panels operate independently of the utility company - indefinitely - in the event of a black-out or major catastrophe. How can you beat that? No ... I don't like the utility companies wanting to raise rates for those with solar energy use ... very bad idea! It will cause a backlash, eventually.

  43. I too have a Model S. Like you I also had Solar City do install my 4.4 system here in California. For me, I am pleased to be using safe power and saying "no" to coal, nuclear and natural gas. The money savings is icing in the cake.

  44. Thank jimmy carter for his executive order not allowing nuclear fuel to be recycled like in France. If we had this, we could do a whole lot better with nuclear. Japan and russia screwed up nuclear with their accidents and we are all now afraid of it. Doesn't have to be that way.

  45. To be fair, the US also messed up, albeit less (Three Mile Island), and France has its share of screw-ups too, e.g. when reactor 5 at Le Bugey lost all power and backup generators refused to start; thankfully one was made to work, otherwise the world would have enjoyed a Fukushima-Daiichi prequel.

  46. wouldn't matter much. The problem is the operaters are cheap
    skates. They run the plants into the ground and operate below critical safety levels.

  47. Surprise, surprise? That the fossil fuel-based industries would battle solar and wind to the death? Even if it meant the death of the planet? They've seen the handwriting on the wall, but they ain't going down without a bloody fight.

  48. It's a only .1% of their business, yet they cry "wolf."

    When it gets to be 10% and growing, then they will say, " OK, lets get with the program."

  49. they need to evolve their business models. Either start charging a flat rate for grid, and break out the generating charge or get into leasing panels to people, and include service or fall apart.

  50. I have a 3.7 kWh system at 8,500' in Evergreen, CO and produce enough electricity that I have a small overage that Xcel buys for less than wholesale rates. I recently bought a Tesla Model S 85kWh car and not am using all of my power. I pay $20/month for the excess use of electricity and have eliminated $150/month in gasoline - not even counting no mufflers, spark plugs, tune-ups and all the ICE expense savings yet. The future is power and as EVs become mainstream power will be needed at all levels, including local.

  51. I live in Central Texas, have a 54-panel 12 kv solar system, and a Nissan Leaf. Avg home plus EV consumption is about 50 kwh per day. I don't see why utilities, at least in the South, should be worried. We levelize their load by putting power on the grid during peak summer times, and charging the EV mostly at night. We reduce their typical 6% line loss figures for the excess power we generate (goes to other customers), and we still pay the $22.50 monthly connection fee. How is that not a win-win for them ? If we don't have more solar, there WILL be a point of no return, in Texas, when we will see summer rolling blackouts, because fossil generation requires evaporation of water from cooling reservoirs (1/2 gal for every kwh generated.)

  52. Sorry, I meant to say 12 kw, not 12 kv. The cooling reservoir water issue will put a cap on electric generators inevitably - not solar producers. Higher prices during peak (time of day metering) will drive consumers to solar in droves within 10 years.

  53. I think power company got nothing to complain about.

    They buy excessive power from solar owners for less than $0.06/KWh (PG&E) and then they turn around sell to other customers for a minimum of $0.12 or up to $0.30 per KWh. They do this without doing anything. I call that a good profit.

    The only problem is that they are "no longer a monoply" on power generation since now their customers can offset their rate increase with solar.

  54. Er, you forget the infrastructure.

    First, those 6c/kW*h are about what it costs PG&E to procure that energy.
    The rest is for transmission etc, costs incurred regardless of where the electricity comes from (the utility still have to build and maintain lines able to carry the full load regardless of whether one has a PV system).

    Next and most importantly, PG&E does net metering, meaning they effectively mostly buy PV power at 30c/kW*h or whatever their highest rate is, almost never 6c.

    If ones produces extra power during the day/summer which is then used at night/winter... well, PG&E only gets to bill the difference, possibly exactly zero, despite having had to provide transmission back and forth, and generation when needed.

  55. "PG&E does net metering, meaning they effectively mostly buy PV power at 30c/kW*h or whatever their highest rate is"

    You mean, that, PG&E loses revenue from formerly captive customers.

  56. The infrastructure is there already. They have to service them anyway. (in the case PG&E, they don't service it anyway. San Bruno gas explosion is a great example).

    Typically, the over generated power from your panel is usually powering your neighbor's usage. So, the excessive production is never really a major impact on the main grid.

    As far as net metering goes, that is beside the point. You can sign up for so called TOU usage regardless you have solar or NOT. So, instead of offseting your own rate, it just offset other people's usage.

    In my case, I am on E-1 with solar since I have people at home 24-7 and using power around the clock (except for EV charging). So, it is a fix rate. Doesn't impact PG&E except for lost revenue.

  57. Yes I have said the same before. the electric company get cheap solar power during peak daylight and returns cheap power at night. They still make a profit on the electricity they get from the customers solar panels. This rate structure does NOT provide any money for the use of the utilities distribution system which they no doubt will be asking for in the near future.

  58. They already charge a "grid connection" fee per month whether I use/generate power or NOT.

    So, in effect, I am paying for that portion of the so called "grid" service anyway...

  59. Oh my god ! What are we going to do now without the Electric Utilities ? I could care a less. They've robbed enogh of our money. As long as I am concerned they ca shut down as soon as possible. Before they totaly destroy this world. Farewell.

  60. You know, while at least in the US, utilities are forced to offer you service, at a regulated price btw, you don't have to use it.

    Please just flip your main breaker off. Farewell.

  61. You mean utilities are forced to make a profit from the power that they sell to all captive customers in their territory? How terrible for them.

  62. What?.. Again, none is forced to use their products. Provide your own electricity (generator, solar, whatever), use less, or none at all, your choice.
    Myself prefer to live with the incredible convenience of a reliable constant supply of power and water, and I'm happy to pay accordingly.

    More importantly, as they are often a local monopoly, public utilities are regulated and not free to set their own prices.
    If you feel you're paying too much, go talk to the relevant commission.
    Good luck doing that at the pump by the way.

    In some areas (e.g. California), utilities revenue are even decoupled from how much energy they sell. They don't benefit from people using more, quite the opposite actually.

  63. Is that why PG&E offers no incentives on solar if it is NOT grid-tied solar system?

    So, in another word, they still want you to be hooked up?

  64. Call me confused, but why should a utility (or any business for that matter) give you incentives if you're not a customer?

    They do offer incentives in the first place, which you benefited from I presume -- isn't at a good thing?

  65. Sounds like someone who works for utility.

    Well, utility is a regulated business. By law, they are giving me a service in exchange for a monopoly which they own. Even though when they should invest their so called profit into infrastruture, but they don't. As in the clear case of PG&E where they have misused profits and fund and end up causing problem. Guess who is paying for it at the end? The rate payers.

    PG&E still charges you for a connection fee even if you are net-metering. Also, some the solar company only want to install solar power up to 80% of your max usage.

  66. The answer is to get electric companies to get more individuals driving EVs and using more of their product, but electric companies cannot go out there and advertise this. They must be agnostic while trying to grow unit sales of kWh. Power firms need people to use more nighttime and early morning electricity and mart meters, TOU plans and EVs are the way to do that.

    Tell your friends and take me on a test drive in your EVs. The only way ev growth will occur is through private peer pressure. Everyone else wants to detract from how great they are with untrue "facts" and political bents.

  67. Electric companies used to do joint advertising with GE and other manufacturers to show off and advertise electrical appliances, everything from electric baseboard heat to Refrigerators to lightbulbs. Heck, the local utility in chicago, (Com Ed) used to give you 6 free light bulbs every month, to get you to use more power.

    And the utilities used to advertise on the virtues of an all electric house.

    I know the gas company and power company used to slug it out.
    No reason for them to not slug it out with the gasoline vendors.

  68. John, I have an Ford C-max Energi on order. Been 2 months now and was told it will be another month. People are buying these cars with no encouragement from the utilities. For profit utilities are against net metering because it reduces their customer numbers. We are watching the slow demise of FOR profit Utilities. I live in AZ. http://www.azcentral.com/business/consumer/articles/20130726arizona-solar-industry-uncertain-future.html#protected

  69. This is what you pay for when you vote in politicians who sell of public utilities to the highest bidder, you reap what you sow. We should be selling access to public power utilities to provide energy, not the opposite.

  70. The only way to fight back is complete independence (Freedom) from utilities with help of battery based solar & wind systems. Yes, a self sufficient sustainable system may make an average American almost bankrupt but at least they don't have to go through these hurdles and red tape set by utility lobbied governments.

  71. i wonder if you could take some COTS UPS systems, and use that to
    support a Solar PV array.

  72. I think the distribution network will need to become public infrastructure,
    have it be bought off from the Utility companies and become property of the ISO's. Create either regional grids or State based ISO's and let the utility companies either sell retail power to consumers or own generators, but not both.

  73. for anyone who would like to make their prius a plug out, which would power your home in a blackout or brownout.
    A Concord N.H. company called converdant vehicles LLC, makes a conversion kit for prius. If interested you can do a web search to get more info. I know in the past California has had rolling blackouts and this might help.

  74. @Gene: Please note that this will almost surely void the car's warranty.

  75. John's article outlines what is already happening here in Australia. Supplly charges are currently 23cents/kWh (to be increased 20% after the federal election) - and they say coal is cheap!!. Feed in tariff from home solar was 44cents/kWh but has been slashed to 8cents/kWh - bugger! Big companies are all ready to talk competition when they are on top but cry foul when superior technologies and community expectations come along that they have not anticipated, or more so did not want to acknowledge. Many are still trying to exist with 1950s business models and technologies, but they will eventually get on board and wonder why they didn't do it earlier.

  76. As far as whining utilities are concerned...where's my violin! I installed a small PV system to offset the power my LEAF requires to run. This makes my car truly zero emission. I sub-metered my charging station so as to determine power in & out of the LEAF...current efficiency is 83% and that is why EV's will 'rule the roads' in the not too distant future.

  77. One of the best features about home solar is that it keeps the utility companies from over-charging. They know that if they raise rates, it will drive more people to switch to home solar. They are entitled, however, to charge the home solar user for connection to the grid. This is where laws should be used to make sure this price is reasonable. Paying more for electricity used than sold seems to be the right way to do this.

  78. I believe my utility (Long Island Power Authority) already makes sure they don't lose on solar, though I wouldn't be surprised if they claim otherwise. In addition to buying net-metered excess from solar at wholesale, they charge an "Efficiency & Renewables" fee of 0.62 cents/kWh to all customers to fund the rebates they offer on solar installations. With 3 million people on Long Island (excluding the NYC boroughs), and regular rates around 20+ cents/kWh, and this far north not being a hotbed of solar installations, it's hard to believe this ~3% surcharge isn't making them a profit.

  79. Figuring the economics of solar power for individuals with simple math is inaccurate and underestimates the value of solar power. Factors that make a huge difference are that the lifetime of a solar array is 30 years or so, the sun shines the same every year so the income stream or yield never varies, the cost of electricity has been rising at twice the rate of inflation (so your income is inflation-adjusted), and the income is tax free (40% or more than most bond income). Seen this way, buying home solar is an excellent investment, and with falling panel prices, one of the best opportunities there is.

  80. Solar panels do degrade about 0.5% per year. That is still better than 2-3% that PG&E is planning to raise on my electricity rate.

  81. The sun shines the same every year but the cloud cover that can reduce your production by 90% does change every year. Just ask anyone who has had solar in the Midwest in the last 3 years.

  82. Actually, utilities don't make much profit on residential customer (except for top tier users). Most of their profits are commerical and industrial users. Their per KWh rate is higher than the baseline rate of the residential customers.

    If they really want to, just get rid of tier TOU rate of net-metering. After that, it will be actually generating revenue for the utility company and still benefit the solar panel owners.

  83. I believe your thinking is a little backwards. Commercial rates are the normal rates that reflect cost of providing service and profit. Baseline residential rates are basically subsidized. I don't know any normal people that use less than the baseline amount of electricity, so on average they are still paying the same rate as commercial. Only extra-heavy residential customers are penalized by the upper tier pricing. Those are the people who need to get solar.

  84. But the typical household also use most of their power off peak. So that helps utility as well.

    There are plenty of "normal" people that uses less than baseline in the SF Bay Area. You just need all gas appliance, small house and well insulated house.

    As far as subsidies go, it is more than made up from the top residential users.

    Last time I looked, utilities make plenty of profits. I own plenty of their stocks and those dividends are just flowing...

  85. I think if I can double my solar panel size (to 6.6KWh) and have a 80KWh- 100KWh battery for back up, I can go completely off the grid for all conditions.

    Okay, maybe I need some kind of CNG tank...

  86. I live in North Central Texas (Fort Worth). I recently leased a Leaf and I am having installed a leased 8.07 KW solar array on my roof. I hope to supply all my electrical needs. My house is only 1250 sq feet.

  87. Just a great article and comments, thanks to everyone. As someone who hopes to have solar at home in 2015, this is invaluable. Great insight from people who know far more about this than I do, which is perfect timing for me. I'd already started researching, but real-life comments and experiences, as seen here, will help greatly, I believe.

    Good idea and timing, Antony and GCR. I'm sure many others are doing what I'm doing or starting to consider it.

  88. The down side is the price has gone up a bit since 2012. But hopefull the price will go down in 2015 by the time you are doing your solar purchase.

  89. They make a lot of money on fees for the lines.
    Think about it.
    My utility pole is about 30 years old and the transformer and lines in our neighborhood was never replaced. I do not know what the basic fee is for just having power at the house without the actually KW usage. Lets say there are 20 households connected in our neighborhood to one transformer and each pays $20 per month just for the basic fee.
    20 households times $20 times 12 month times 30 years.
    20*$20*12*30 = $144,000 that is the amount a neighborhood with 20 households paid the power company in 30 years without having to have to spend any money for the upkeep of lines. How much money will the make on a basic fee for the whole city.

  90. Our utility company which was Progress Energy was very co-operative & paid us $350 rebate but it has been bought out by Duke Energy the largest utility in the country & they are not as co-operative, raising rates & cutting back on the kilowatt payments

  91. I have 1.7kw solar and a Leaf. PG&E was super cooperative, especially their techs. I'm on E9-A and pay an average of 0.08/kwh with most of the consumption at night (I hacked a timer into our electric dryer to start at midnight). We drive 800-1000 miles/month and last month's bill was $24 total electric. Can't complain.

  92. Take the time to research what has come out of CONDENSED MATTER NUCLEAR SCIENCE and the rest of the quantum world and you will want to jump and shout!! There must be a couple dozen BLACK SWANS on the energy lake. Let us not be fools and continue to slather ourselves and our planet with oily goo. See what these folks have to say about the benefits of oil and gas. Michael McKubre from SRI, Peter Hagelstein from MIT, Charles Chase from Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works, Dennis Bushnell from NASA, and last but certainly not least, Ruby Carat with coldfusionnow.org

    That's my opinion, and I'm stickin' with it!!

  93. We ordered our Rooftop Solar system in September 2013.Finally the(way-busy)Solar company installed it in one day. Now, two months later DWP is still hanging us out - and I believe because of all the letters and phone calls - even longer. . . The utility companies can get in on this action for their own power generation if they open their eyes.

  94. OMG! You're messing with my monopoly! it cutz into my profitz! :|~

  95. The article poses the question regarding the lost profit by the utilities due to rooftop systems- "should this shortfall be made up by charging….."
    ARE YOU KIDDING ME! The public's job is to ensure all profits by the utility companies? Or ANY company? That's ridiculous.
    Keeping the utility companies in business is in everyone's interest but lost profits don't equate to going out of business. So what they make lower profits.
    When a corporation is publicly traded in the stock market it's shareholders want steadily increasing profits. PUBLIC utility companies have no business being beholden to shareholders which ultimately puts the rest of us on the hook. If they have to be taken over by the public so be it.

  96. "Provide your own electricity ..." unless you live in a municipality that states in their ordinances that you must only power your home or business from their grid.

  97. Wow, first post failure. Sorry about that. This was actually in reply to what Just O Posted: 7/30/2013 11:57am PDT.

  98. For those interested in an example for an energy positive urban development / home visit :
    and click on the PDF button under "The Energy Positive Urban House"

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