Giant Utilities Want to Promote Solar by Making It More Expensive

Monday, August 31, 2015

Make no mistake about it. Pacific Gas & Electric believes, “Solar is an essential part of our clean energy future. We need smart energy reform to sustain its long-term growth in California.”

To that end, PG&E joined with the state’s two other utility giants to propose a plan on August 3 to California’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) which would add monthly charges to the bills of residential solar users and some small business users. Critics said it was an obvious attempt to help the fossil fuel industry fend off competition from renewable energy sources.

Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle said PG&E clarified some its cost estimates and they look even worse for solar users. Most solar users would pay $29 more a month than they do now while the more aggressive solar users, who install batteries to reduce their power usage, would pay just $13 more.

PG&E calculated that the average cost to solar users would be an additional $20 a month.

“We can craft the right rate reform that will help solar grow and help build the smart energy future our customers want and deserve,” PG&E Chief Executive Officer Anthony Earley, said in a press release.

There is some question as to whether this plan is that.

The far-reaching proposal by the utility, which would take effect in 2017, would not affect current solar users, according to George Avalos at the Bay Area News Group. They would continue to realize an overall 60% discount on their energy bills. But the plan would reduce that to 50% for new users.

The credit solar users get would be reduced from 17 cents per kilowatt hour to 10 cents. But there are aspects of the proposal that are difficult to assess. Mark Toney, executive director The Utility Reform Network (TURN), told Avalos a usage fee tied to the time of day when power is used, is “very difficult to figure out.”

Nobody in the nation has connected more residential solar panels to the electricity grid than PG&E. But Walker Wright, director of public policy for Sunrun, one of the nation’s largest solar leasing companies, told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “There’s no doubt that the utilities don’t want this form of competition in California.”

A decision is expected from the PUC by the end of the year.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

PG&E Plan Would Hit Solar Homes Harder than Previously Thought (by David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle)

Proposal from PG&E, Other Utilities, Seeks Cut in Benefits for Solar Customers (by Derek Moore, Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

PG&E Proposes Smart Energy Reform in Support of Growth of Rooftop Sola (Pacific Gas & Electric)

PG&E Proposes Far-Reaching Changes for Solar Power (by George Avalos, Bay Area News Group)

Leave a comment