SAN DIEGO — A decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will make it much more expensive to get rooftop solar starting April 15th.
It mostly affects those who do not yet have solar but can affect existing solar users under certain circumstances.
The California Solar and Storage Association is the state’s largest solar trade group.
They’re trying to connect people with the right solar companies to get solar system applications submitted to utility companies by the April 14th deadline.
The first step is finding a licensed solar contractor:
Then you'll need to sign a member of CALSSA:
CALSSA Executive Director Bernadette Del Chiaro says, “Right now In San Diego, a solar system will pay for itself in about six years.
Under the new rules, we are kicking that to 10 years or further.”
The change that starts on April 15th will change the net metering program. Net metering allows you to connect your solar system to the grid. You use your own energy when you need it and the solar energy you send back to the grid, you get a bill credit for that.
But, starting April 15th, the value of the bill credit drops drastically. Right now when your solar system is producing energy, you send that energy to the grid. If it’s 25 cents they charge you for a kilowatt, they give you 25 cents credit and it offsets your bill. Starting April 15th, they’ll still charge 25 cents, but they’ll give you .04 cents for what you produce and send to the grid. That’s the reduction in value.
Del Chiaro says the CPUC’s goal is to try to get more people to install $15,000 batteries with their solar system so you store all that excess energy during the day and you use it in the evening when electricity rates go up. She says, “We were asking for a couple of years to transition this new program so we could get battery supplies up and costs down. They didn’t give us that transition.” Instead, the CPUC made the decision in December and basically gave solar companies 120 days to get consumers’ applications submitted under current rules.
CALSSA connected us to HES Solar in San Diego. It’s one of the oldest solar companies in town. Ross Williams is the CEO of HES Solar. He says if you have a $500-a-month SDG&E BILL, that’s $7200 a year. If you get solar, you would pay less than a thousand dollars for the year. But that’s the formula before April 15th.
We went to the HES Solar warehouse where crews are slammed helping people get their applications filled out and submitted by the April 14th deadline.
You do not have to have your solar panels on your house by April 14th, but you must have an interconnection application fully submitted to your utility company by April 14th. And don’t wait until the last minute. SDG&E has kicked back applications for missing a middle name. If your application gets kicked back and you don’t fix it by April 14th, you miss the deadline.
Ross says even though consumers do not have to buy a battery with their solar system right now, there are benefits. After April 15th, consumers will need to buy one. He says, “Most people are interested in saving money and doing what's right for the grid and society in general. That's why we exist.”
CALSSA compiled a few tips for being a smart solar consumer.
- Get three bids from a properly licensed solar contractor, preferably one who’s a member of a trade association like CALSSA.
Here are some useful links:
- The cutoff for net metering in California’s investor-owned utility territories is April 14, 2023. Consumers who live in PG&E, SCE, or SDG&E territories and who submit a complete interconnection application to their utility before the cutoff date can be eligible for net metering.
- After that date, consumers are eligible for the new program called net billing. Net billing still affords savings for consumers who go solar but the payback periods - the length of time it takes for your solar investment to pay for itself through monthly utility bill savings - will take more time. Consumers who live in a municipal utility territory may or may not be eligible for net metering, depending on local policies.
- Consider adding battery energy storage to your solar system. A battery can protect your solar investment while also giving you emergency backup power during grid outages.
- Make sure you are aware of the federal "Solar Investment Tax" Credit (ITC) and how you can take advantage of it. The tax credit is worth 30% of the final cost of the solar system, which is an incentive that will be around for consumers for the next ten years. If your solar system costs $30,000, you may be eligible to deduct $9,000 off of what you owe in federal taxes. However, the ITC can only benefit you if you owe federal income taxes.
- Any contract you sign should include the system size (measured in kilowatts, kW), the final installed cost, and warranty information. It should also include the license numbers of the contractor and the home improvement sales agent who sold you the solar system. The contract should be in the same language as the sales conversation. Do not sign a contract that is missing these important pieces of information.
- Pay as you go. Don’t make more than a $1,000 down payment upon signing a contract. There are also a lot of options for financing your solar system or signing up for a power purchase agreement that don’t require large up front investments.
- If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. For example, no government agency will write you a check if you go solar. You can save money by going solar, but you cannot make money. Also, there is no such thing as a “zero utility bill.” Most electric bills in California contain monthly charges. These are required with or without solar. Finally, adding solar to your home does not mean you can use as much electricity as you’d like. If you significantly increase your electricity usage after going solar, outpacing the size of your solar system, your electric bill will increase.
Buyer’s remorse? California gives you three days to change your mind or five days if you’re 65 or older. Instructions on how to cancel must be included in your contract.