California Utilities Undermine EV and Home Solar Ownership

California utilities and EV Owners
Joseph Gray and his Chevy Volt. Image courtesy of PRNewswire.

Public utilities around the U.S. see renewable energy as a threat to their profit margins and quite possibly their very existence.  Now, even in the “green” state of California, EV and residential solar owners are facing rate changes that undermine their substantial investments in clean technology.

California EV owners were recently shocked to learn that the California Public Utilities Commission is allowing Southern California Edison to discontinue a popular EV rate plan (TOU-D-TEV).

One EV owner, Joseph Gray, who is being affected by these changes, created the website ProtectOurRates.com to help educate the public.  “EV’s are still relatively new so many are considering purchasing one or have recently done so.  It’s not uncommon for EV owners to also consider investing in solar systems based on the benefits of net metering in tandem with EV rate plans.”

Gray, who purchased a Chevy Volt back in 2011, invested an additional $68,000 to have solar installed at his home in 2013.  Less than a year and a half later, he is confronted by the fact that he won’t be seeing a return on his investment as planned.  He cites SCE’s termination of the TOU plan as the culprit.

SCE is shortening the summer season from 7 to 5 months while shifting peak hours from 10-6PM to 2-8PM.  This will be devastating to owners of solar systems who have previously earned the majority of their solar credits from 10AM-2PM during the summer season.  I feel these changes are a direct attack on EV owners who have invested in residential solar and that SCE hasn’t been transparent in this.”

Gray is asking for others to sign an online petition to the CPUC and SCE to grandfather in existing EV and solar system owners so their investments are not compromised as significantly by these changes. “This is not only the right thing to do, it is what the CPUC should have demanded.”

Utilities already offer Power Purchase Agreements to large scale projects.  These agreements may last anywhere from 5 to 20 years and guarantee the rates to be paid for electricity produced for the duration of the contract.  Without these agreements, financing would be impossible to secure as the revenue stream would be too unpredictable.   Homeowners deserve this same kind of financial certainty from their utility when making their clean technology investment decisions.

We have a major battle on our hands to counteract the vast sums available to utilities to influence the political and regulatory process.  The fact is, that distributed generation is a threat to the utility industry’s current business model.  When California starts taking aim at clean technology adopters, what hope is there for the rest of the U.S.?   Lets get ready to rumble!

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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.