ICYMI: Another solar customer whose monthly electricity bill is only $5 – despite continued reliance on the electric grid

Posted on March 24, 2022

Sacramento –A story on KQED profiling a Richmond homeowner who went from paying $500/month in electricity bills to only $5/month after installing solar panels provides yet another example of how the Net Energy Metering (NEM) program shifts significant costs to those without solar panels. The 25-year-old program needs to be modernized to reflect the lower cost of solar energy today.

The credit for selling their excess solar energy back to the grid has grown to be so excessive that solar homeowners are no longer paying their fair share of costs to maintain the grid. Hundreds of dollars per solar customer per year are instead being paid by all those who don’t have solar panels, many of whom are renters, seniors on fixed incomes or low-income families from disadvantaged communities.

If no changes are made to NEM, the subsidy will continue to grow along with the cost burden on non-solar customers.

Other examples demonstrate this unfair cost shift.

  • A homeowner in San Diego County wrote an op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune detailing how his summer utility bill went from $600/month to $56.56 for the entire year. “Net energy metering allows rooftop solar customers like me to push these costs to non-solar customers — increasing my neighbors’ utility bills.”
  • Former State Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, who is now the incoming leader of the California Labor Federation and a solar homeowner, told the San Francisco Chronicle that sometimes she has a negative utility bill due to the credits she receives. “[Assembly Member Lorena] Gonzalez said she has solar panels on her home and believes the current net metering program pays her too much. She said her most recent electric bill was negative, meaning she owed no money and doesn’t have to pay fixed costs for the electric system that her neighbors without solar can’t escape.” 

 

Affordable Clean Energy for All, a coalition of senior, consumer, low-income, environmental, business and taxpayer groups is urging the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to fix this unfair cost shift so that everyone contributes equitably to maintenance of the electric grid.