Stop Paying PG&E for Fossil Fuel Power
Every day that goes by is another day you pay PG&E for electricity. Like aging, it never stops. Yet thousands of Californians contemplate how and when to separate themselves from the big utilities by going solar. The answer it turns out is simple. It’s right now. Renewable energy systems, most notably solar electricity systems, are proven reliable and available and are the most effective means of putting space between you and PG&E. And every time you pay PG&E, you’re spending money that could be paying for a solar system. No matter how you slice and dice your decision, waiting is no longer justified according to industry experts.
“The utilities and fossil fuel industry have more power and money than anyone, and a huge financial interest to keep control of their customers and how we use our energy. So don’t take it for granted and definitely don’t trust it will always get better as you wait for the perfect time to go solar,” cautions Ted Walsh, Partner and VP of Sales at SolarCraft. “Find a local solar company you trust, meet someone from the company in person at your home, pay for quality, and protect your investment by owning your own electricity generation system instead on relying on PG&E.”
With PG&E’s recently pleading guilty to 84 counts of manslaughter, and their exit from yet another bankruptcy with settlements and fines that will cost them nearly $40 billion, it is PG&E’s customers that are paying a heavy price. These horrific personal and financial losses piled up due in part to the utility being fined for their power lines that sparked over a dozen wildfires that caused over a hundred deaths, hundreds of thousands of home evacuations, and billions of dollars in damages. Even after PG&E customers endured the devastating consequences of years of negligence and destruction, all of the monetary costs end up being paid by these very same customers–in the form of higher electric rates.
Partially as a result of the rate increases, many of PG&E’s customers chose to invest in the range of $15,000-$40,000 to purchase solar for their homes and businesses. Making this large investment is similar to someone who can afford to buy a car because they don’t want to take the bus. It’s their choice. Meanwhile PG&E claims they are losing customers and revenue as a result of people investing in personal solar electricity systems. They further claim that the remaining customers, often lower income customers, must pay more to cover the operating costs and the obligatory returns to their shareholders. Since charging lower income customers is not a positive public message, PG&E disguised the increased electricity prices and cast the blame on the “wealthy” solar customers—a disingenuous spin on reality.
On December 13th the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) proposed a new version of their Net Energy Metering (NEM) program, the utility’s program that has enabled solar to mature and reduce prices over the past decades. The new NEM program would make solar payback periods longer and less attractive for customers. The new NEM, now called “Net Billing Tariff”, would shift money back from solar customers to the utility companies. The Net Billing Tariff is PG&E’s way to shift people’s focus away from the root of PG&E financial burden and on to the solar customers—an easy target falsely disguised as the culprit.
As the CPUC and the utilities shift blame, it reinforces that the best time to go solar is unequivocally now. This is further evidenced by the following.
The need for environmentally responsible living is at an all-time high. This year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) highlighted how critical it is that we reduce our emissions and live more sustainably. One of the goals from COP26 is to secure global net-zero emissions by mid-century. To reach this ambitious goal, we need to move away from fossil fuels and towards clean power five times faster than the current rate. The cost of doing nothing is far greater than the cost of taking action to reduce emissions. Reflect on the billions of dollars of damages every year as a result of climate related disasters—even just here in the North Bay—and you can start to envision the long-term economic trend.
For the vast majority of individuals or businesses that want to generate their own energy, there is no realistic alternative other than solar. Most people can’t install a wind turbine or hydropower in their yard. And a personal nuclear generator is off the table. Solar is the only viable clean energy option.
Beyond environmental causes, solar adds value to customers’ lives. While people wait for better prices and tax incentives, the same incentives and policies often start to disappear or get offset by other market effects. If you think that waiting for the 26% federal tax credit—one of the main drivers to enable the solar industry to mature over the past 20 years—to rise again to 30% is worthwhile, think again and reflect on the status of the stalled Build Back Better Act. Nothing in Washington is set in stone until it’s truly set in stone and you have the money in your pocket.
With the addition of battery storage for backup power, going solar not only provides financial value but also makes homes more resilient to the litany of unprecedented natural disasters. The value of peace of mind during a power outage, let alone the value of everything in your refrigerator, is priceless for many people. Many current batteries are available while battery technology is still actively evolving, albiet slowly. Putting off a solar installation while waiting for battery technology to advance is rarely advised. By installing the solar with or without a battery, they system can get paid off using the amount formerly paid to the utility. A battery can always be added to a solar installation later.
Not just homes but businesses also benefit tremendously. Some more than others as businesses tout their “sustainability goals” as they compete for increasingly sustainable-minded buyers. CFOs appreciate not just the Federal tax credit but also the accelerated depreciation and other attractive business bonuses geared toward renewable energy projects. These benefits are here now and are yet another reason not to wait to take control of self-generated solar electricity.
Getting back to the CPUC, the Net Billing Tariff will not be voted on until January 27, 2022 at the earliest and it could even be rewritten or delayed for quite a while. Those who have their solar installed and the NEM application submitted prior to the CPUC vote, are in great shape. But if you’re feeling down by missing the deadline to lock in today’s NEM incentive, remember, the time to go solar is now. The financial return on investment may take a little longer, but the benefits are definitely favorable.
PG&E rates have been increasing at over four times the rate of inflation over the last 10 years. Instead of someone spending $6,000 per year on electricity from PG&E, that money can be used to pay for a personal solar electricity system. Savings will occur the moment the system is turned on and you can apply the 26% Federal tax credit—in effect a 26% discount. Instead of financially and socially supporting a centralized power company that has burnt down entire communities for the past number of years, personal energy independence is a very viable and available alternative.
The longer you wait, the longer you’re paying PG&E instead of paying off your solar system. “We’ve witnessed hundreds of people waiting for the perfect time, but meanwhile they would have paid off their system years ago if they hadn’t waited. Those who wait will never see the investment payoff and will continue to hope that PG&E changes and does the right thing,” says Walsh.
SolarCraft continues to provide clean energy and battery storage solutions throughout the North Bay while following strict health and safety protocols to protect employees, clients, and the community during the Coronavirus pandemic. SolarCraft is 100% Employee-Owned and has been one of the largest green-tech employers based in the North Bay for over 35 years. SolarCraft delivers Clean Energy Solutions for homes and businesses including Solar Energy and Battery Energy Storage. With over 8,500 customers, our team of dedicated employee-owners is proud to have installed more clean energy systems than any other company in the North Bay. www.solarcraft.com.
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