Article written by Mark Becker for Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today, January 2016.
The fourth quarter of 2015 was a record-breaking quarter for installation of solar PV systems in the State of California. In November, there were 5,942 solar PV projects completed and approved for interconnection to the grid in PGE territory alone. In last months article, I discussed the factors that are driving this installation volume. The ramifications of this volume of installation are far-reaching. At the current rate of installations, a “trigger cap” for the new regulations is going to happen much sooner than expected. The trigger date for changes is July 17, 2017; the trigger cap is 5% solar penetration into the PGE grid. PGE expects that the 5% trigger cap will happen during the summer of 2016.
The final design and impact of “Net Metering 2.0” is still to be determined. Hopefully PGE and the solar industry will progress from their entrenched policy positions and recognize that a balance must be struck; solar needs the grid, and the grid, consumers (and the planet) need solar.
Consensus is that those who connect their solar during Net Metering 1.0 (current regulations) are going to reap greater financial return than those who “go solar” after the “NEM 2.0” changes. It’s not a certainty, but by all indications, lesser solar returns for some consumers will be the result under NEM 2.0.
Breaking NEWS: I’m more than halfway through writing this article, instead of starting over and rewriting (it’s practically Christmas!) I’ll simply continue with an update: The Net Metering 2.0 initial ruling has been published. A big win for consumers is that new solar customers under NEM 2.0 (upon final approval) will still get full retail value from their solar. Unfortunately, new customers under NEM 2.0 will be subjected to new interconnection application fees. Also, “Time of use” rates are going to be imposed on customers in a few years. However, “Time of Use” rates are typically already advantageous to the customer AND the utility if a properly designed solar PV system is installed. There are other nuances that may slightly reduce the value of solar PV under NEM 2.0, but in general, as is currently proposed, it’s a HUGE WIN for the California consumer. Unlike a recent Nevada ruling, new legislation in California can not retroactively damage someone’s financial returns for a solar PV system; these rulings grandfather anyone who goes solar during the time periods of NEM 1.0 and 2.0 into 20 years of these defined benefits.
Even bigger news, nationally: Extension of the Federal Tax Credit for homes and business is another big win for the American economy, jobs and consumers. I believe it’s becoming an accepted belief that renewable energy is a critical element of a cohesive homeland security policy. The Federal Tax Credit was extended in its current form with the first planned credit percentage step-downs starting in 2019. It’s hard to describe how important this legislation is to the renewable energy industry. It’s also very important to give credit to both political parties who have proven this is not a partisan issue.
Another matter related to Homeland Security is that of the security of our electric grid. Simply do a Google search on “Iranians and U.S. grid.” Your research will find that our grid has been subjected to cyber attacks. The attackers “have the capability to strike at will” according to intelligence experts. One of the best ways to damage our economy is to cripple our utility grid. The real problem with cyber attacks is that it’s very hard to prove from where they came.
There’s a headline on “Solar Industry News” that reads as such: “New Products help owners and managers collect solar plant data in fine detail”. Consumers: Data, for data’s sake, is useless. Extreme data detail serves to confuse the average consumer. With upgrades to traditional technology, the granularity of too much data is unnecessary and the products that can generate such granularity of data simply add complexity to an otherwise very safe investment. Simplicity and reliability get the job done, for decades. Solar, done right, is a wonderful investment.
Mark Becker is the President and business owner of GoSimpleSolar, by Semper Fidelis Construction Inc, CSLB 948715. GoSimpleSolar is one of the very few (and proud) solar PV installers utilizing both licensed roofers and licensed electricians for installation work, project managed by a solar PV NABCEP professional. For questions or comments email Mark@GoSimpleSolar.com or call 925-331-8011.