The use of rooftop solar panels has dramatically increased over the past decade, and California recently celebrated the installation of its millionth solar roof across the state. However, with the increases in solar installations comes a decrease in the profits of the big electric companies. To counteract this loss, electric companies are now attempting to add additional fees and rate increases to those who have solar panels in place. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “San Diego Gas & Electric has asked the California Public Utilities Commission to allow the power company to institute a fixed charge on monthly bills.”
WHY ARE THE RATES INCREASING?
Electric utilities have a ‘revenue requirement’ which is set by the California Public Utilities Commission based on what the commission thinks is a fair amount of the cost of operating the company every year. As an example, the revenue requirement for San Diego Gas & Electric was $1.8 billion in 2018.
With the increase in solar installations in California and across the country, electric companies are losing money simply because they aren’t getting as much money back from customers with solar installations. This means that customers without solar are paying increased rates to make up the difference.
WHAT ARE THE ARGUMENTS?
Proponents for the rate increase argue that if any customer is accessing the grid, they should have to pay for that access. The proposed plan would be for utility companies to set up a minimum bill amount. That amount has been changed from $10 to $38 per month (or $1.26 per day). This means all customers will have to pay a fixed rate of $10 every month for access to the grid. If the customer’s monthly bill is over the minimum bill amount of $38, they pay their billed rate. If it’s lower than the minimum bill amount, the customer pays the $38 minimum.
Those opposed to the increased rates argue that those who made an investment in solar likely did so knowing it would decrease their utility costs over time. To now be saddled with an increased utility cost that likely won’t go away is in direct conflict with the rationale for that investment. Others argue that the rate increase is a means of dissuading potential solar customers from making the switch to solar energy.
Fortunately, those who use solar power in their homes do not have to sit idly by while electric companies increase rates and impose higher fees. There are deliberate steps you can take to fight back and preserve your right to renewable energy.
WHAT CAN I DO?
The big utility companies employ powerful lobbyists to influence government action against solar power. Still, you can fight these lobbyists by joining advocacy organizations, such as the Solar Rights Alliance, the Solar Power Advocacy Network, and the American Solar Energy Society. These groups believe everyone has the right to harness energy from the sun, and they provide several avenues to allow regular homeowners, renters, and businesses to have their voices heard.
HES Solar is truly dedicated to providing high-quality installations to businesses and homeowners throughout the area. For more information on how you can fight back against solar rate increases, contact our team!