Monday, December 07, 2009

Energy Buyback plan means rooftop revenue for Homeowners (Press-Enterprise By David Danelski) Or Does IT?? (BS Ranch Perspective)

BS Ranch Perspective:

This law is not moving far enough to given enough incentive for those that want a solar power generation plant on their house, since you are only supposed to be generating less then or up to what you are using now, it leaves people with more of an option of paying off their mortgage first then making the huge investment in this power plant, that will not pay them enough to make a decent savings to their household!! If this power plant was to take their electric bill away from their monthly/yearly bills then there would be an incentive, but what would make and even more incentive would be to allow the homeowner to sell, power back to the State/City/or Local power Company, when they have not used as much power in their household as they have generated for that month. Sure that power that they got purchased from them would be considered to be income as a private Sales, this and only this, would lead to a way to drive people to conserve power!! Other then that if their power is reduced, yet they are still forced to pay a bill then they will take those savings and mark it as that SAVINGS, in there budget they might be easier to spend that money, but if it is marked as Earnings that would make it more likely to try to make more!! Other than that the speculation that people will try to save simply because their bill is reduced is a stupid assumption on their part!!!

BS Ranch

PS: this projected Change is bad, and the allowed buyback of power should be allowed at a profit from the homeowner!!

Energy buyback plan means rooftop revenue for homeowners

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12:09 AM PST on Sunday, December 6, 2009
The Press-Enterprise

California residents who install photovoltaic solar panels on their homes soon could be paid by their utilities if they produce more electricity than they use, the result of a state law that takes effect next year.

But don't expect a rush of people installing rooftop solar units, observers say. Here's why:

To be eligible for paybacks, homeowners and businesses cannot install solar systems that generate more electricity than they've been using. In other words, they can't put in extra solar panels with the intention of selling power to the local utility.

Story continues below
Terry Pierson / The Press-Enterprise
Riverside homeowner David Morgan has a 2.3-kilowatt solar system on his home, and he says laws governing utility buyback of unused residence-generated solar power are moving in the right direction.

The law does not apply to the 1.4 million electricity customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Once rooftop solar accounts for 2.5 percent of a utility's total power supply, no further buybacks are required.

The law's backers hope it will move California toward capturing a huge source of clean power that doesn't require construction of new long-distance power lines or building energy projects on hundreds of square miles of desert land that otherwise might be preserved for recreation or wildlife habitat.

Enough sunshine lands on California rooftops to potentially generate 50 gigawatts -- nearly the total electricity the state uses on a hot day in August -- according to estimates in a 2007 California Energy Commission report.

Some say the law's restrictions expose lawmakers' reluctance to truly embrace the potential of rooftop solar, despite the state's mandate that utilities obtain 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by next year and 33 percent by 2020.

"We are getting a lot of sloganeering, but they are really just throwing us a bone, and it is not much of one," said David Myers, executive director of The Wildlands Conservancy, an Oak Glen-based organization that raises funds to acquire wildlife habitat for permanent protection.

The bill's author, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said the limitations were necessary to overcome opposition from large utilities, including San Diego Gas and Electric, and the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities, including Southern California Edison.

"I got the most I could get with this bill," Huffman said. "I'd like to see as much generation from as many roofs as possible, but this was a political compromise."

Opponents said the state already requires utilities to spend about $3 billion subsidizing the cost of rooftop systems through rebates. Those who benefit from the subsidies "do not need another opportunity to receive payment from the utility," according to an analysis by the Public Utilities Commission.

Damon Franz, an analyst for the commission, said in an interview that the rule limiting how much electricity people can produce will encourage people to install smaller systems, allowing the state rebate dollars to be distributed to more homeowners. Smaller solar systems also would encourage owners to reduce their electricity consumption, in order to get paid for the unused power, he said.


Bob Botkin, solar programs manager for Southern California Edison, said the company took no position on the bill. He added, though, that encouraging people to produce only the power they use helps eliminates the cost of distributing the power to other users.

Despite the bill's limits, Huffman said, it opens the door to electricity buybacks. He is hopeful that future legislation will lift the 2.5 percent cap.

Story continues below
Terry Pierson / The Press-Enterprise
David Morgan says he has enough roof space to accommodate solar panels that would supply 100 percent of the power for his household and one of his neighbor's homes.

Riverside resident David Morgan, who installed a 2.3-kilowatt solar system on his home a few years ago, said the law is moving in the right direction.

"It's on its way to be being a good thing, but it isn't going far enough," Morgan said.

Since his system provides about a third of his family's power needs, Morgan said the law gives him a financial incentive to add more solar capacity. He has enough roof space for panels that would supply 100 percent of the power for his household and one of his neighbor's homes, he said.

By the end of next year, utilities are required to set rates to reimburse customers who qualify for buybacks. Once the rate is set, residents can start earning redeemable credits for excess electricity they produce. The first checks would arrive a year later.

Huffman said under existing rules, utilities kept track of homeowners' excess electricity production. At the end of a year, if they produced more power than they used, the remaining credit was forfeited, infuriating some owners of rooftop systems.

In an e-mail to Huffman's office, San Francisco resident Douglas C. Horner Jr. wrote: "I'm not in the business of providing free power to PG&E on my dime. If they are not banking those credits, or sending me a check, then I might as well use as much power as possible ... "


David Wright, Riverside's utilities director, said he doesn't expect the limitations of Huffman's bill to slow rooftop solar progress in Riverside. The city is years away from seeing 2.5 percent of its power coming from rooftop solar systems, giving lawmakers time to increase the cap when necessary, he said. The city has about 107,000 meters; about 110 are connected to solar systems.

Even with local subsidies and federal tax credits, the cost of a residential solar system, depending on size, is roughly $20,000 to $50,000, akin to the cost of a new car. Consequently, few people would be inclined to build a system that produces more than their needs, Wright said.

The limitations in the law give utilities time to phase in rooftop solar and other alternative sources of electricity while paying off debts on conventional power plants, he said. Forcing the utilities to buy solar power too quickly could result in rate increases.

"It would be like paying two mortgages for two houses when you need only one house," Wright said.

Myers, of The Wildlands Conservancy, said the state needs to encourage people to invest as much as they can in rooftop solar, but instead it is setting up roadblocks that protect utility profits.

Such obstacles will result in more large-scale solar and wind energy development on previously undisturbed public land, as well as more power lines crossing public and private land to carry that energy to cities far away.

"It just doesn't make sense, when we are trying to convert to a green economy," he said. "The technology is ready and the roofs are on the grid, and no environmental impact reports are needed."

Reach David Danelski at 951-368-9471 or

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