Rooftop solar users worry SDG&E will raise rates

Don’t worry, the corporation assures

Tom and Mary Roberts
  • Tom and Mary Roberts

There are no plans to raise rates for rooftop solar users, SDG&E spokeswoman Stephanie Donovan said in a July 30 interview.

"There is nothing in the current proposed rate design," she said.

The prospect of a possible rate increase concerned some residents who attended a presentation by Pedro Villegas, SDG&E director of community relations, at the July 25 Del Cerro Action Council meeting.

“No one is off the grid," said Villegas at the meeting. SDG&E "brought power to you at [times like] night and in the early morning. The problem is the bundle rate. We can't have a 2001 rate system for 2013 technology. We proposed a fixed-rate system for solar."

Mary Roberts said installing photovoltaic solar panels caused her monthly bill to drop from $250 to $17. However, a rate change for solar users "defeated the purpose," she said.

Mary and her husband Tom installed 22 solar arrays in November 2010. A monitor in the house indicated the panels generated 23,382 megawatt hours of electricity since 2010 and a daily total of 13.8 kilowatt hours by 1 p.m. on July 30. The Robertses installed photovoltaic panels after a friend working for a solar company said they would pay "$25,000 to $30,000 to SDG&E over the next ten years," Tom said.

Mary said the amount of electricity supplied by SDG&E "is minimal. They want my solar for free; they want my energy for free. They pay for transmission whether it's from my house or Arizona."

Donovan clarified Villegas’s statement that was heard by Mary Roberts at the meeting, saying that while the system is "outdated, there is no [flat-rate] proposal at this time. About two to three years ago, there was."

Furthermore, Don Bauder wrote in the Reader on July 3 that SDG&E last year "wanted to charge solar users substantially more for their connection to the distribution grid. The [Public Utilities] commission nixed the idea."

According to Donovan, the SDG&E service area is the "densest in the nation" in terms of rooftop solar. By the end of June, there were 25,032 solar users. The total included 604 new solar customers. Businesses accounted for about 1000 solar users. The net energy generated was 184 megawatts, with 50 percent produced by residences and 50 percent by businesses.

Donovan said solar may not be practical for renters and those who don't have south-facing roofs. SDG&E is seeking commission approval for a pilot program that would allow people to purchase electricity from solar projects in the service area.

(Revised 7:45am 8/1)

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Actually, SDGE is still fighting for the fixed fee. This is from a recent email alert from CALSEIA (the CA Solar Energy Industry Association): AB 327 (Perea) is an IOU-backed bill that would mandate a monthly charge of $10.00 per month (max) on all residential customers in IOU territories. That’s $120 per year out of ratepayers’ pockets no matter how energy efficient they are or how much they off-set with solar.

"This policy moves California backward when it comes to our long-standing tradition of enacting policies that drive consumers toward conservation, efficiency and solar power," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Executive Director of CALSEIA. "As ratepayers look at the bottom line on their bill, a fixed charge dampens the incentive for people to go solar or invest in energy efficiency."

What AB 327 does is allow the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to adjust the current rate structure, which is the same rate structure that's been in place since 2001.

This gives the CPUC the authority to make the tiers for rate payers less progressive, in turn broadening the base for potential solar customers.

Under the current structure, only a small fraction of energy users have a real incentive to go solar. Fixing the rates could prompt users who don't necessarily use a lot of energy, but have a lot of money, to consider solar.

As for the monthly charge of $10/month, this goes towards maintaining the infrastructure needed to store and distribute solar energy.

With this in mind, please consider learning more about AB 327 here: http://bit.ly/NRGpt

FixMyEnergyBill should be honest and tell everyone who they really are: Sempra/SDG&E. Matt Potter reported today on the Independent Voter PAC, which is the only identification on the FixMyEnergyBill website. He explained how Sempra recently dropped $65,000 on the PAC which immediately turned around and created the FixMyEnergyBill social media campaign to give the false appearance of objectivity and concern for electricity customers as they push AB 327 to stick it to us. Morgan Lee at the UT did a story on this sham in today's business section.

AB 327 is nothing more than an attack on all the economic and environmental progress we have made through the local rooftop solar and energy efficiency industries. Local permanent jobs, immense savings for electricity customers, and less demand on the grid--which has helped prevent blackouts--are the benefits of these industries. Instead, SDG&E would rather build more and more 20th century dirty natural gas plants, such as the proposed $1.6 billion Pio Pico plant in Otay Mesa, that are paid for by electricity customers. Pio Pico would provide less than twenty permanent jobs, add to our poor air quality, and ramp up greenhouse gas emissions. Sempra/SDG&E should have the decency to not hide behind a PAC that insults our intelligence with the words "independent voter" in its name.

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