Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Myths about Solar Energy Systems at Home

So the coming elections are causing a lot of misinformation to fly around like most any election.  So here is my contribution towards a fair representation of the truth.

My friend had a solar installation on his rooftop and after asking him a ton of questions, I eventually found myself signing up as well.  since then I've seen what it can do and why the energy companies hate it so much.

MYTH #1 - SOLAR CUSTOMERS AREN'T PAYING FOR THEIR SHARE OF THE GRID COMPARED TO NORMAL ENERGY CUSTOMERS.

This is the biggest myth that annoys me the most, so I'm addressing it first.

Anyone connected to the power grid pays a monthly service fee.  The service fee acts like insurance for everyone when something goes wrong and your power company has to fix it, this service fee basically pays for it.  Some people think they can do their own off-grid solar installation to avoid this service fee and "stick it to the man."  But if they did that, any problems with power equipment stored on their property would be charged directly to that home instead of being covered by the service fee.

The service fee varies between area and utility company.  I use SRP and my area is charged $17/month. My friend in Surprise, AZ has APS and they charge him $33/month.    The picture here shows I am getting charged the appropriate fees, JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

If I produce more energy than I use that month, the only charge I receive is the service charge and taxes, exactly as pictured here.  There are no other fees on these bills from which solar customers are exempt.  saying we don't pay our fair share is a complete lie...and I will go over why that is.

MYTH #2 - SOLAR CUSTOMERS ARE NOT PAYING FOR ENERGY THEY ARE USING

I dont hear this often but when I do I am quick to call bull shit and make fun of the person spreading the lie because they are likely just jealous of my summer electric bill.

The other higlighted area in my image above is the energy charge.  This is my USAGE.  This is what really separates solar from non-solar customers.  I used $46 worth of electricity in Phoenix, AZ in JULY.   Anyone living here knows that's impossible even with the most energy efficient air conditioner and you really like it hot in your home.   My bill for this month last year was $250...and that's low compared to most people around here.

The truth is, energy produced on your own is way, way, way cheaper than buying it from the power companies.   I don't know the exact rates but I can use my current and former usage as examples.  Last July I used about the same amount of electricity.   Close to 1800KWh which came to $250 total.  So why is my bill only $46 in usage (plus taxes and fees)?

Solar customers are producing energy and feeding it to the grid.  The grid that everyone uses to get power.  Every KWh that is fed into the grid is credited to that solar customer at a 1-1 ratio.  So if I give the grid 200KWh's that day, I can use 200KWh's without getting charged.  If I use more that that, I get charged.  If I use less that that, those credits roll over to the next day, or month.

But just because I am producing the energy does NOT mean I am not paying for it.  My solar lease is close to $90/month and will also inflate as time goes on.
So technically my combined July energy bill is $150.  
That's not as bad as last year's bill but it certainly isn't free.  What I tell my friends about the benefits of solar is that is basically stabilizes your electric bill to a manageable amount during the high usage periods, such as summer in AZ.


MYTH #3 -  SOLAR CUSTOMERS ARE POLLUTING THE ENVIRONMENT

This can only be said for solar customers that are completely off-grid where they store their energy in on-site batteries.  The batteries are what people are claiming as polluters because maybe they aren't recyclable or properly disposed.

But off-grid installations are very rare these days and typically done by the home owners themselves.  The newer leased installations, such as the one I have in my home, are on-grid systems.   All the energy we produce goes right into the grid and that energy is used by other homes.  This energy was produced from the sun, inverted to AC current, and fed into the grid.  So technically, solar customers are providing much cleaner energy to the public compared to the power companies themselves.

Most power companies are using nuclear or coal based power.  If you think solar is polluting over that, I suggest you do some more research.


UTILITIES ARE MONOPLIES LOSING PROFIT

So why do the power companies want you to believe lies about solar?  Quite simple....they are losing money.   Before solar, these utilities (which are really legal monopolies) were just sitting back and collecting a paycheck.  There is no competition with other utilities because you can only get service from the utitily company in your area.  It's slightly understandable since it's their infrastructure and letting another company attempt to provide alternate service and fair competition would be a public nightmare as all of the roads would be torn up to do so.

But your utility company is the only option you have...so what exactly is twisting their arm to keep them from overcharging and under-servicing?  Nothing.  Those are the reasons monopolies are supposed to be illegal, because they abuse their power.   And when the new America started finding ways to live without the old government, did the monarchy just accept the loss of all those taxes?  No they did everything they could to keep the money pouring in just as much as it did before.  So that's what APS and every other utility provider will do as well.  They will do anything they can t protect their profits.  Their profits do NOT benefit the city...they only benefit the shareholders and executives.  They simply don't care about you.

All $250 of my last year's bill went to SRP, just like every other non-solar home on SRP or APS turf in my city.   But this year, SRP gets $60.  February 2013 SRP got $120 from my pocket.  February 2014 with solar, SRP got only the $17 service fee and taxes I am required to pay.   Multiply those profit losses by the rapidly growing number of solar homes popping up all over Phoenix and the total will get very big very fast...and that's just for one year.  My solar lease is for 20 years.

That's 20 years of profit loss from one household and SRP can't do anything about it...neither can APS.  But APS can still spend millions of dollars funding political candidates that will help them pass legislation to tax the hell out of solar installations.  While they aren't admitting it, they sure aren't denying it.   The first tax last year was proposed as a $100/month fee to be paid straight to APS...not the city.  That was denied and APS was told to go f*ck themselves...in a political manner.   But APS is going around that now to elect their people to pass the same kind of legislation.   Ever wonder the kind of special interests that buy off political leaders?    Guess what APS is doing....


PITFALLS

I prefer solar over non-solar.  But these solar companies and power companies are still businesses.  They still want to turn a profit even it if means looking the other way a few times during their sales pitch.

The solar companies will tell you your solar energy credits will roll over from winter and be available for you in the summer time, which is when us AZ folk need them the most.   Then at the end of the year, your power company buys back all your remaining credits from you at a wholesale rate.  Basically a rip of to the solar customer, but in the long run it doesn't matter much.

But that's not entirely true depending on your power company.  Mine is SRP.  Turns out SRP chooses to settle these unused credits at the end of their FISCAL year.  And wouldn't ya know it, that just happens to be April 30th....right before Phoenix summer hits.  So all 2000 of my spare KWh's that I really needed for my summer pool season are gone.

2000KWhs bought from SRP would cost me well over $250 if not $300.   But because they buy them at wholesale rates, I got $70.  So right there, SRP will net at least $200 from my energy production.  After that, because I am using more energy than I am producing and I no longer have credits to pull from storage...once again SRP profits.

I confronted my Solar provider about this and they claim they have never heard this before.  My solar salesperson wouldn't even return my messages.   If you are thinking down the solar road, check with your power company to find out when your credits are wiped clean.

Even with all that, I am still paying less for my electric.  My lowest usage month in the history of this house since I moved in was $90. Now my solar bill is $90 and I am producing more energy than I need.   So my energy bill is regulated and I am still credited for the excess energy I produce.  Overall, it's a good deal.   But I  no longer recommend it to anyone because the utilities are winning the war.  They are bribing all the right people and getting more and more laws passed to kill everything good about solar.    Eventually, they will have enough laws passed to where solar will cost more than non-solar.  If you want to invest in solar, then I recommend you look for a plan that is NOT a lease, but more like a mortgage where you OWN the hardware.  At least then you will be exempt from some of the laws that are targeting leased systems.

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