SDG&E shocks solar users with rate change

"On-peak" hours switch increases cost of relying on the grid

"I'm thinking I can get some extra panels in over the addition on my garage..."
  • "I'm thinking I can get some extra panels in over the addition on my garage..."

A letter sent by San Diego Gas & Electric to customers with home solar systems has left some subscribers confused and even worried about the future of their ratepayer agreements with the utility.

"Basically, I trust SDG&E as far as I can spit," says Bob Camacho, a 30-year resident of Scripps Ranch and a retired teacher who most recently taught at Hoover High.

"We were getting killed with electrical bills every month, so I did a little research and decided to put some solar panels up," Camacho continues, explaining that he had a system installed in early 2015, before the utility required new solar customers to adhere to a "time of use" plan that varies the cost of electricity based on the time at which it's consumed. He says that under his current plan he receives a modest rebate for excess power generation at the end of the year.

"My payout works out to something less than $250 a year. I don't look at the bill too closely, but I know they nitpick you for a bunch of little fees that add up."

Last month, Camacho received a letter from the utility notifying him that he had an option to switch to a time-of-use plan, but the choice had to be made quickly because "the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved changes to electric rates for SDG&E customers."

"It's really confusing — they basically gave you 30 days to do your research and decide whether to change over, but they don't really make it clear that changing is totally optional," Camacho said. After spending a few weeks seeking information on what the changes meant, he contacted SDG&E for help.

"They offered to set me up with a solar specialist, but not until after the deadline to make the choice," Camacho continued, an assertion backed up by a copy of a chat transcript from July 28, the deadline SDG&E had imposed for solar customers to make a rate selection.

Those rate changes, as posted on SDG&E's website, are likely to come as a shock to solar owners.

Under the existing time-of-use system, summer "on-peak" hours run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with "semi-peak" times bracketing this from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. "Off-peak" hours, when electricity costs the least, run from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

After the change, the on-peak period will shift to 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., with off-peak running all other times except "super off-peak" hours running from midnight to 2 p.m. on weekends and holidays and from midnight to 6 a.m. weekdays.

The closer to peak demand on the grid, the more a utility can charge users for electricity. By shifting peak hours into the evening when solar systems are less productive, solar customers will end up paying more for the electricity they buy off the grid and less for the excess power they feed back into it. Solar advocates have decried the change, arguing that the CPUC broke its own rules in allowing the new rates.

Still, Camacho says he plans to double down on his solar investment.

"I'm going to approach the people who put in my system and talk about adding some more panels. The system I have now generates about 80 percent of what I need, but I'm thinking I can get some extra panels in over the addition on my garage, or maybe on a patio cover in my backyard....I just don't want to pay anything more to the utility — aren't we already one of the most expensive markets in the country?"

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Once again, the failure to cleanse the CPUC of Brown cronies is continuing to pay off big—for everyone except rate payers. Until we allow homeowners to cut their ties to the grid, we have no leverage against getting raped (just as often if not quite as hard) by the energy utilities.

I really do not see why solar customers think they should not pay their share of the costs of the electric system. They already received numerous tax deductions to install the systems.

Nothing prevents you from buying batteries and disconnecting. But as a non-solar customer, please pay your own way so I do not need to subsidize you through the rates.

Thank you

Why should they have to "pay a share" of a system they don't want and don't use? The whole problem is that the regulated utilities have used their special government-issued monopoly to REQUIRE people to connect to the grid, even if they don't want to.

And who determines what is a "fair share"? SDG&E, You? My system generates excess power that goes back in to the grid, it's SDG&E that decides if that is a benefit to you or not.

Instead of more panels you may consider battery storage, like Tesla's new powerwall, or similar battery storage. Of course storage only works if your existing panels produce more than you use during the day. If so, then you store during the day, then draw down the battery after the sun goes down.

unless you get a huge battery, the ones they sell now are just for emergency ( like a computer ups)

Check out the Powerwall product it's way more than a UPS.

their stuff looks good, bet the price will come down soon on similar systems. I still think sdge will get their sticky fingers into the deal.

Once again the CPUC is functioning as an arm of the utility companies. The CPUC is totally corrupt and should be disbanded and prosecuted under RICO. They are supposed to look after the interest of the rate payer which is the last thing they do.

But... but... it's the private sector that's evil and greedy! Government is pure and noble and selfless!

Any attempt to uncover the corrupt links between "our" governor and the utilities, and his influence on the CPUC, have been stonewalled. And so it will stay until he is out of office for the last time. California voters are stupid, and letting him hold that office for the second time, and for another eight years, proves it. He was a disaster the first time around, doing damage that we still suffer, and now it is compounded with this sell-out of the CPUC to the mega-utilities.

I too am disappointed in Gov. MoonBeam. Looks like we should have asked Linda Rondstat to have kept him on Safari in Africa. His sister is on the CPUC correct?

I received the same confusing and deceitful letter from SDGE, a little over a year after beginning net electric metering (NEM) with my photovoltaic array in Feb 2016. I am on a direct rate (DR) with tiers as opposed to time of use (TOU).

After receiving the SDGE letter regarding my option to switch to time of use, I did nothing and, as I understand it, unless a new law is passed will continue with this arrangement for 20 years from my original start date.

See breakdown below for the basics or go to www.sdge.com/solarplans and type in the PTO date for detailed information. My permission to operate (PTO) date was 2/3/16…and I am NEM 1 below.

NEM 1:

DR (Tiers)-Customers can stay on DR for 20 years from their PTO date (unless legislation passes that eliminates DR)

TOU (called DR-SES)-If you select this plan option before 7/28/17, you are grandfathered into the current time periods for 5 years from your Permission to Operate date. If you select a TOU plan after 7/28/17, then you will remain on current TOU periods until 12/1/17. At that point, you will move to new time period with on-peak being 3 p.m. - 9 p.m. (Pending CPUC’s Final Decision)

NEM 2:

DR (Tiers)-Customers can stay on DR for 5 years from their PTO date (unless legislation passes that eliminates DR)

TOU (called DR-SES)-If you opt to elect a TOU plan before 12/1/2017, then you can remain on the current TOU period for 5 years from your Permission to Operate date.

I am NEM2 and have talked to SDG&E several times. Your summary is correct. The KEY is that SDG&E is trying to eliminate tiered (DR) rates by 2019, hence the "unless legislation passes..." phrase.

So NEM1 customers had to make a bet by 7/27: SDGE kills the DR rates in 2019 and switching to TOU gives you 5 years of the better peak rate OR they will not be able to kill the DR rates and you are fine.

I am still doing the math for my NEM2 system. I think TOU is a little better for me so I will probably switch before 12/1.

@jerzo I'm interested to know how DR works with Solar if you can share your experience? My understanding is that you are billed for your usage vs a "baseline" but there must be some summer months where you are a net generator and I assume you earn a credit. How is the credit determined? Is it a $ amount you use later or is it a credit scored as kWh which you use later when you are a net user?

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