Is PG&E Making Solar Home Battery Solutions More Viable?

By Gabriela Covay | The Latest Solar Energy Information

Millions of Californian property owners are considering solar panel installations. What they may not know is how adding a solar home battery to their systems could make them even more functional and cost–effective. Here are some ways your setup choices might impact your solar future.

PG&E and Solar Power: A Relationship in Flux

Beginning at the end of 2016, PG&E instituted changes that could reshape the economic realities of some solar installations. These trends suggest that there’s never been a better time to get started with generating your own power and storing it in a battery bank. The new rules incorporate a few distinct changes, including:

New Fees for Linking Solar Panels to the PG&E Grid

In December 2016, PG&E declared that it would begin charging both residential and commercial consumers an estimated, uniform fee of $145 to connect their solar arrays to its network. Although this may seem like a hurdle to getting your system running, there are easy workarounds.

Those who install robust solar home battery storage systems or off-grid battery solutions don’t have to connect their panels to the grid. You can stay totally independent unless you simply want to sell your excess electricity, which brings us to the next major change.

California’s Latest Iteration of Net Energy Metering Tariffs

Net energy metering, or NEM, lets property owners who generate power sell their excess back to the grid. Those who participate get to save money and help reduce California’s need for non-renewable energy.

With the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, NEM 2.0 tariff, however, PG&E modified the time of use, or TOU, slots that dictate how profitable a grid-reliant solar setup is. Unless you were one of the lucky customers grandfathered in with an E6 TOU plan before May 31, 2016, you’ll pay new rates.

NEM 2.0’s TOU requirements apply to commercial and residential PG&E patrons. The plans come in a few main variants:

  • ETOU-A prices peak between the hours of 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays excluding holidays.
  • ETOU-B prices peak between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. on non-holiday weekdays.
  • Commercial prices are estimated to peak between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. as of 2018.

How does this differ from previous solar-friendly rules? With NEM 1.o, peak hours occurred in the middle of the day when the sun was at its brightest. This meant that you could sell back more energy at peak rates to increase your profits.

As you’ve probably noticed, these new plans’ peak hours coincide with sunset. In other words, these changes suggest that now is the best time to invest in home solar power storage solutions to maximize your savings. During the day, you can charge your battery system while your solar modules absorb energy from the sun. This enables you to use your battery’s power during peak hours, when most people leave from work.

The Future of NEM and PG&E Costs

Looking at PG&E’s own data, you can see that tariff increases occurred on a fairly consistent basis from 2003 onward. By our estimates, prices jump by about 6.5 percent annually.

It may be that the company is simply trying to maintain its profitability as more people switch to solar. For instance, around the time NEM 2.0 was being implemented, state regulators seemed to cave to pressure from power companies to slash buyback rates. The new TOU rate mandates also impacted solar consumers before other residential customers.

CPUC plans to reassess NEM 2.0 around 2019. Solar array owners who remain partially dependent on the grid may eventually find that power companies limit grandfather rate guarantees, change the way it calculates solar rates or simply try to do away with NEM entirely.

Will Solar Home Batteries Come to the Rescue?

Gaining true power independence with a battery installation isn’t just a smart idea in case you lose power at night. Solar home battery systems could free you from:

  • Annual tariff increases,
  • Variable rates and tiers, and
  • Surcharges and fees for connection, excesses and other necessities.

Sandbar Solar & Electric is Santa Cruz’s most established installer of solar panels for homes and businesses. We take pride in our ability to design, implement and troubleshoot high-efficiency solar panels for Central Coast consumers. From Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties to San Jose and the Bay Area, we’re making sustainable energy far more feasible.

With 13 years of local ownership, a passion for alternative energy and close community ties, our Santa Cruz solar company is dedicated to helping you take control of how you use power. View our project portfolio to discover how our impressive work ethic and skills can help your energy outlook evolve.

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