Utilities Want to Be a Partner in Promoting Electric Car Benefits

By · February 19, 2013

Image from The Electric Generation website

Image from The Electric Generation website. Do new efforts like this from Edison Electric Institute add to more public awareness, or only splinter EV-based web communities already in place?

In the push for clean energy and electrified transportation, utility companies are often typecast more as a necessary evil versus a committed partner to the long-term success of EVs. That broad-brushed assessment is part of the reason the Edison Electric Institute, a consortium of stakeholder-owned electric companies, recently unveiled The Electric Generation, a so-called grassroots campaign to educate the public about the benefits of electric transportation. PlugInCars.com spoke with Brian Wolff, senior vice president of EEI, about ultimate goal of The Electric Generation, and how EEI will balance its push for clean energy, to negotiating partisan politics, and managing its duty to stakeholders.

There is ongoing debate about the true importance of "public education" for the success of electric cars. To many observers, the term public education brings up images of dry "eat your vegetables" public service announcements. Others believe that EVs need the same red-blooded marketing approaches used to sell any car, especially those that emphasize a superior driving experience. Then, there's a question about the role of utilities, car companies and trade associations in fostering "grassroots" driver campaigns, when there is already a growing list of websites and online forums started and operated by drivers themselves (including DrivingElectric.org, PlugInAmerica.org, MyNissanLeaf.com, and PluginCars.com).

The Electric Generation

“There was a real need for us to talk about electricity as a transportation fuel,” said Brian Wolff, regarding the EEI’s new Electric Generation campaign. “We wanted to make sure we were talking about and amplifying, in the public’s mind, the benefits of electricity.” At this point, the message consists of encouraging EV fans and early-adopters to get the word out about electric transportation. The website for The Electric Generation suggests everything from ‘friending’ the campaign via Facebook, to asking local politicians and even car dealers to be more pro-active in promoting EVs. For the latter, that could mean simply having an electric vehicle in showrooms for interested customers to see first-hand.

It’s a series of positive small steps, to be certain, though some EV fans might be wary of the source of this EV enthusiasm. Utility companies have often been portrayed to be as much of a hindrance as help when it comes to pushing for greener, cleaner energy alternatives, especially when the debate involves modernizing and cleaning up existing power plants.

Bipartisan Effort

“I don’t think there is a Democrat or Republican way to look at this,” said Wolff, regarding the need to cross the political divide when it comes to accelerating EV adoption. “I know a ton of Republicans who own Teslas,” he added. According Wolff’s online bio at the EEI website, he served “served as a Capitol Hill strategist for the U.S. House of Representatives and has served under Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Robert T. Matsui (D-CA), Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).” Thomas R. Kuhn, the Edison Electric Institute’s current president, was himself a former roommate of former President George W. Bush during their years at Yale.

Wolff referred to utility companies as “a transformational industry,” that the role of utilities is to now “be a partner” when it comes to answering questions about energy and electric transportation. “One of the best ways [EV acceptance] can really cross party lines is the economics of it all.” The goal of programs like The Electric Generation is to first “build a foundation” of EV acceptance, Wolff explained. The second phase involves “accelerating the amplification phase to the broader mainstream.”

This next step, and one where the heft of the utility industry could be brought to bear, involves a wider push for EV-friendly legislation and corporate programs, ranging from more HOV lane access and preferred parking for electric vehicles to expanding corporate fleets of EV vehicles. Perhaps The Electric Generation will slowly build the case for these kinds of efforts from utilities, with its own database of EV driver testimonials. “Now is the time for us to work harder for broader [EV] acceptance, using the enthusiast to amplify that voice,” said Wolff.


· · 5 years ago

My local utility PG&E certainly don't care about promoting EVs. Their so called EV charging plan sucks. E9-A is the worst scam there is for EV owners...

· · 5 years ago

The utilities have been strangely silent on EVs. EVs can provide them with paying customers for their massive excess night-time generation capacity. I don't understand why they are not pushing more for EVs. Perhaps they are legally constrained?

· · 5 years ago

If you don't like E9-A, you don't have to take it. However, it is generally cheaper than E-1 as long as you can avoid using a significant amount of energy during the Summer Peak times. Living in South San Jose or Tracy, that's not easy with A/C demands what they are in those areas.

Looking at the Tier 3 (131%-200% of baseline) rates, E-1 is about the same as the summer and winter Part-Peak rates at $0.30/kWh. Peak time is only 5/1-10/31 M-F 2pm-9pm with a stiff $0.51/kWh rate. Your EV charging between midnight and 7am is about half price at $0.038/kWh to $0.20/kWh with the Tier 3 rate at $0.16/kWh, slightly more than half the E-1 Tier 3 rate of $0.30/kWh.

As long as your account has more than 9 months of history on a SmartMeter, the PG&E site should be able to tell you what your historical use would cost on different rate schedules.

· · 5 years ago

Can you be more specific about issues with E9-A rate? I have that rate and charge my Volt inside off-peak times 12am to 6 am and weekends. My average rate at those times are about 10 cents per kwh. One down-side with PG&E's E9-A rate structure is the tiered design which would put the rate at about 25 cents per kwh if the use exceeds first and second tieres.

· · 5 years ago

The Hydro authority here in British Columbia has for a long time been a huge proponent of self-congratulatory photo ops with futuristic electric cars, especially at major political circuses like the 2010 Olympics, or the several aborted attempts at "green highways" like the I-5/Highway 99 corridor which has repeatedly been suggested might run from Whistler to San Diego.

But where the rubber meets the road, it's all been hot air. They haven't built any public chargers or otherwise dedicated any money to actually providing any infrastructure beyond "Oh, someone else wants to put a charger here? Here's the bill!" Anytime they've actually placed chargers anywhere, it's been a token effort at highly visible locations and nowhere else. Certainly nowhere useful.

It's only ever been a task undertaken by companies like Sun Country Highway that have gotten anywhere. Usually those companies have disappeared after a few years, however. Hopefully, this new batch of electrics being manufactured will actually take hold this time, instead of just kind of disappearing into a puff of rhetoric.

· · 5 years ago


Sun country highway (using rebranded clipper creek evse's) has plastered southern ontario with devices in the Niagara Peninsula (just across the border from here in Buffalo Ny) where as Metropolitan Buffalo's biggest source of public charging are 200 volt 30 amp Aerovironment units at the various Nissan Dealerships. The only other things are a very few GE 30 amp Durastations (usually 208 volt), and then more just plain 120 volt (at no load) outlets.

SunCountryHighway is to be congratulated for not being too greedy on their pricing of the various evse's.

I'm obviously not in SCE, LAWTP, or PG&E's territory, but if Modern Marvel Fan or other Californians could spell out your rate schedules as regards electrics, it would help the rest of us understand. From what I know now, it seems to be a Ken Lay (ENRON) legacy, and in general it screws John Q. Public. If you use a bit more than you are supposed to you get charged 30 cents per kwh. My own Utility that INVADED Western NY due to politics (Our power rates doubled years ago due to this) charges now 13 cents per kwh and climbing, but to date there is not a punitive aspect to it - its the same no matter how much you use for residences and nonprofits).

· · 5 years ago


If you read Mike I's reply, you will know why. B/c it is tiered rate. If you use very little electricity to start with, then it is NOT a problem. But if you are already in the tier 2 and tier 3 rate and adding E9-A is just going to be even more expensive. Sure, the additional EV charges will be much much lower during the offpeak hours. But since you are charging the EV. Assuming 10KWh per day (pretty typical for a 30 miles commute), that is 300KWh additional usage. It will easily bump you up by 1 to 2 tiers in your current usage. That potentially will push you "PEAK" usage into the $0.51/KWh rate. Peak rate is 2pm-9pm for summer. I don't know any household with kids that doesn't use any power between 2pm and 9pm. That is why I think it is a "SCAM".

It will only work if you use very little power to start with and don't charge your EVs much per month.

If you are a "heavy" EV user (20KWh per day, 60 miles/day in a Leaf), you can easily fill up the first 3 tiers with your EVs alone...

· · 5 years ago

"E9-A rate structure is the tiered design which would put the rate at about 25 cents per kwh if the use exceeds first and second tieres."

@ $0.25/KWh, it is cheaper to drive Prius with 50MPG and $3.50/gallon...

The only way to get around the scamming E9-A rate from PG&E is to install solar panels to offset the increase in rate.

· · 5 years ago

51 cents / kwh is extortion, plain and simple. At that price its cheaper to make it yourself, unless Californians are also screwed on natural gas pricing. (Its 70 cents per Centum Cubic Foot for residence rates last month here in Buffalo - about 2.4 cents/ kwh, that will be rising in the coming months but you get the flavor of what I'm speaking).

Our experience in Western New York is everything is just fine until the politicians got involved. Our rates doubled and service got worse the last time our fine governor got involved. Heaven help us if they decide its a political issue again.

Meanwhile I'm attending rallies to get Pennsylvania's radioactive fracking entrails out of NY state rivers and lakes, and may God Help Us, keep Fracking in General out of NY State..

· · 5 years ago

@ Mike I,

You are aboslutely right. The problem with E9-A is NOT the "off peak" rate for EVs. It is its extremely high price for tier-3 rate for "peak" hours. During the summer, most household will use power between 5-8pm. That is right in the middle of Peak hour.

A typical PG&E tier is about 8-13KWh/day. A fully charged Volt will take that tier alone. So, in effect, any EVs with 40-50 miles commute will easily bump you into the next tier. That is the problem. Sure, your EV charging is cheaper, but your household use is at 2x the rate. So, in the end, you are still paying more...

E9-A is ONLY good if you do NOT drive your EV much on daily basis and you don't use much power for your average household use. I am curious to see how many EV owners in the Bay Area is actually on E9-A... I was on E-1 until I got my solar panels, now I am on E-6 which is a much better plan for EVs b/c its peak hour is much more reasonable...

· · 5 years ago

Bill wrote: 51 cents / kwh is extortion

I agree. It can get even worse if you go into tier4, which is $0.54/KWh.

I don't know who designed E9-A. It is one of the worst conceived plan for PG&E. Plenty of other plan rates are better. E9-B is truly what EV charging is intended to be. Two meters. One for the house and one for the EV. But that will cost homeowners $$$$ to install the second meter...

PG&E is making up its discount @ $0.04/KWh in tier-1 off peak with the $0.54/KWh rate at tier4 on peak..

Tier-1 is generally 8-13 KWh per day (depending on region). most of them are around 9-11KWh/day.

Tier-2 is 100-130% of baseline (tier-1)
Tier-3 is 131-200% of the baseline
Tier-4 is 200-300% of the baseline
Tier-5 is over 300% of the baseline.

A typical 1,800 sq ft single family home with 2 adults and 2 kids uses about 20KWh per day. Some them are as low as 12KWh, some them are as high as 30KWh per day.

Any typical EV usage per day will easily bump the average homes another tier if NOT more. If you were already in Tier-3, then you will be facing the Tier-4 with an EV.

If they expect the spread of EV and realistically replacing ICE cars, then they should be prepared for easily 15KWh additional daily load. That additional load will bump most of the PG&E customer by 100%

· · 5 years ago


I dare ask how much is tier 5? that would be over 900 kwh / month if I'm hearing your correctly. During the summer months with alot of driving and central air conditioning usage here ( my only large appliance besides the cars that is still electric ), I'm easily over 900.

· · 5 years ago

Below are PG&E rates for E-9A (whole house TOU EV rates)

Summer Peak $0.30178 $0.31994 $0.50415 $0.54415 $0.54415
Part-Peak $0.09876 $0.11692 $0.30113 $0.34113 $0.34113
Off-Peak $0.03743 $0.05559 $0.16011 $0.20011 $0.20011
Winter Part-Peak $0.09864 $0.11679 $0.30101 $0.34101 $0.34101
Off-Peak $0.04680 $0.06495 $0.16011 $0.20011 $0.20011

· · 5 years ago

I see no difference between tier 4 and 5.... Is this the TOTAL cost that people pay (plus 10% sales tax i'd assume)? Or is there a delivery charge on top of this?

Callajero thanks for the info... No offense, but you guys are really getting screwed. My 13 cent / kwh 24 Hour / 7 day/ 365 days per year is considered expensive here. But its free compared to what you guys have to pay, especially if you have EV's.

· · 5 years ago

If I read those rates right that means during the summer at 3 am you get charged 20 cents / kwh when there's gobs of excess juice available and the marginal cost of generating it is probably about 2 cents / kwh.

· · 5 years ago

Summer off-peak starts at 3.7 cents (tier 1) and goes up to 20 cents in the top tier. I am averaging about 9 to 10 cents per kWh for charging my Volt durign off-peak periods.
btw PG&E is proposing doing away with tiered rates, so I would have a flat off-peak rate somewhere around 10 or 11 cents (I hope!). Since my wife has alos recently purchased a Volt we will be better off with a flat off-peak rate.

· · 5 years ago


The base rate also varies from region to region. SF Bay Area is in the X region which is about 11 to 12 KWh/day baseline. Sacramento is hotter so they in the 17KWh/day summer and 12 KWh/day winter rate.

The point is that if E9-A is really promoting EVs then they would have make the rates for those EV charging seperate. E9-B is truly a great rate since it allows the usage to be seperate. If you have a Volt and a Leaf and charges them daily at home with each driving 40 miles, then your electric rate will skyrocket. That is 200% additional loading to your household usage per day. That would easily push you into the Tier-5 rate..

That is why so many California EV owners are installing solars and get on E-6 which will lower the on peak rate. I wish PG&E would have combined E-6 and E-9, it would really help the rate and solar generation.

· · 5 years ago

Also, another issue with tiered and TOU usage is that I have small children at home and there is no way that I can avoid using power during the day. Sure, I can avoid using dryers and oven during peak hours, but some power are still going to be used. Having solar really help with that peak usage. But the 5pm-8pm usage are the biggest issue.

· · 5 years ago

The California Public Utilities Commission could really encourage EV's by forcing PG&E, SCE, SDGE to allow sub-metering for E9-B. Currently, PG&E does not allow sub-metering. Just imagine how much more cost effective it would be to install a SmartMeter inline with your EVSE and have the billing system automatically subtract that usage from your main meter and otherwise follow the tariff for E9-B on the sub-meter. I would think that would remove 90% of the installation cost and make E9-B possible for many more EV owners. However, I think the existing scheme is intentional.

Other comments - the only added charge by PG&E is a nominal fee of $0.253 per meter per day on E-6 and $0.219 per day on E-9. With these rates, you can understand why a significant number of people in CA get solar PV systems, myself included. Actually, MMF, if you look at your summer solar generation profile, you should see how many kWh your solar is generating after 2pm in the summer. The higher the rate during your solar generating time, the more bill offset you will get.

Since Bill asked:
Residential Natural gas rates in PG&E Territory X (most of the SF Bay Area) are as follows (new rates as of 1/1/13):
Summer Baseline 4/1-10/31 0.59 Therm/day, Winter 11/1-3/31 2.02 Therm/day
Rate up to baseline: $0.979/Therm, Excess: $1.28/Therm

My usage for the period 12/19-1/17 was 106 Therm (~3.5 Therm/day) for a total of $120. I have a new house with low-e windows, gas range, gas clothes dryer, gas condensing tankless water heater, 97% efficient condensing forced air furnaces heating 2750sf to a constant 70F.

All the PG&E Rates are available at pge.com/tariffs. The formal tariffs are not fun to read, but all the info is there if you dig into the details.

· · 5 years ago

My electric company, CPS energy, does not offer time of use rates since there are very few houses with smart meters. They are rolling them out now but I still don't think they'll offer tou rates when the rollout is complete. I think smart meters are gonna be used to make reading the meter cheaper for them and also to help with demand side reduction programs they are big at promoting. I could be wrong. All I do know for sure is that electricity in San Antonio is really cheap at 10 cents or less per kWh. I still charge my Leaf at night but I wish there was an incentive in place from the electric company. At least they helped pay for my solar. BTW, my Leaf only used 1900 kWh in it's first year for 7500 miles of driving. No that's cheap driving!

· · 5 years ago

@ Mike I,

My solar is only 3KW. So at best, it is 3KW per hour. Based on the today's generation, I get about 2KW rate between 2-4pm (3KW around 2pm and slowly drops down to 1KW around 4pm). After 4pm, it starts to drop quickly. I will have to wait until summer to see how much more power I get between 4pm and 8pm.

· · 5 years ago

This is no big surprise. It serves them. Utilties promoted the "all electric house" in the 1960s.

· · 5 years ago

@Mike I

So California "punishes" you if you use too much natural gas also? Another reason why your population of native californians is on the decline.

· · 5 years ago

@ Bill,

We have governments in California that see it as their duty to ration all utilities. I called the electric company, once, because it seemed that no matter what I did, I could not meet baseline, and the representative said she didn't know of any customer that met baseline.

I feel utility rationing is one factor that is holding up EV adoption. It has been a long time goal of a certain political party to ration driving, and if EVs have widespread adoption, it is only a matter of time before rationing electricity is used for that purpose.

It's no picnic here is California.

· · 5 years ago

"because it seemed that no matter what I did, I could not meet baseline, and the representative said she didn't know of any customer that met baseline."

I agree. I think the baseline is a "scam". The only possible ways that I can see anyone meeting it is if they don't really live in there and they live in a condo/apt with very few electrical devices on.

They are bascially forcing people to go on solars and have their own power generation.

· · 5 years ago

This is also why many of the municiples are thinking about having their own power geneation. But PG&E is trying to prevent that from happening by lobbying the state legislature and PUC...

· · 5 years ago

Your solar is actually skewed much later into the day than mine. For example on 2/14 (a sunny day) my system peaked at 3.0kW at 12:20. By 2:30 it was down to 610W and dropping steadily due to shading. This led to my True-Up (E-6) only accumulating usage in the Part Peak period of 5-8pm from mid-Dec to mid-Feb. 95% of the Off Peak usage is being offset by my solar.

@Bill H
The "Excess" pricing on natural gas (~30%) is not nearly as punitive as the electric pricing which is 157% (E-1 Tier 4&5 price $0.34/kWh over baseline $0.132/kWh)

· · 5 years ago

Actually the PG&E baseline rate is a subsidized rate. PG&E break even is around 15c/Kwh. If everybody made baseline PG&E will go out of business. That said the
baseline is a good incentive for encouraging people to conserve energy.

However, since solar is so cheap now I think it is a wise financial decision to just get rid of
PG&E altogether. I have a 12 KW system that powers my all electric home and 2
EVs. It cost me under 25K after rebates to install. I put it in my mortgage and pay
about $80 extra per month on the mortgage after tax breaks. That $80 pays for all
PG&E electricity, natural gas (which I dont have) and gas for the 2 cars. Think
about it. Take control of your own power and say bye bye to PG&E and Sacramento
for good.

· · 5 years ago


Yes, you may not have any net electricity usage, but you probably still need PG&E to balance your generation and usage. Now, if you have batteries and are completely off-grid, then I applaud you. However, I doubt it.

· · 5 years ago

That is true but the above discussion was all about PG&E rates and how PG&E fleeces its customers. My point was that you can just do away with all that for the time being even though I am using PG&E net metering. PG&E does not charge anything for the service yet other than a $4 per month metering fee, They will not be allowed to charge anything until solar generation reaches 12% of peak demand. It is currently at 3%. So just use it to your advantage.

· · 5 years ago


12KW is a large system. NOT everyone can do it due to locatoin and shading. 3KW system is the largest that solar city is willing to do for me based on my roof size and location. I can add more panels to my roof, but those additional panels won't have the same output as the 14 panels that I currently have. I don't have much lot space to expand it either.

You are lucky and I am certainly jealous that you have a 12KW system. My co-worker just did a 16KW system since he uses a lot of power to heat his pool and pool filters. His main heating is also electric. But he did it with a special cover structure covering his deck (providing shade). It cost him over $30k for the entire system. (He used to spend about $300 per month on electricity alone).

16KW system is enough to cover about 95% of his electricity need. He will be short in the winter and up during the summer. Even out through the year...

· · 5 years ago

Here are the tricks to maximize solar yield. 1. Use large panels (about 300W). Manufacturers try to squeeze in more cells in smaller area (about 5% gain in power).
2. Use mono-crystalline panels (slightly more expensive) but 10% less area than
poly-crystalline ones for the same power. 3. Use Tigo optimizers - gives 10% more power average and very good to overcome shading and mismatched orientations. The microinverters also work but cannot handle 300W panels.

My 12KW system takes up 800sq ft of roof. It is not ideally placed. Just 1/3 is south
facing. 1/3 is east facing and 1/3 west, The east and west facing ones generate 15% less power than the south facing ones effectively making it a 10 KW ideal system but still I am able to offset all the energy I need. I used all the above tricks.

I am an electrical engineer. I designed the system myself, bought all the parts over
the internet - the cheapest I could get, and used a licensed solar contractor to do
the permits and install. That way I even bypassed SolarCity. :)

· · 5 years ago

One very significant measure that PG&E took, along with some smaller utilities like CPAU, and afaik SoCal didn't, is to waive demand fees for EV fast-chargers.
It seems like at least PG&E indeed recognizes that EVs will in majority be recharged at night, when the grid is otherwise under-utilized.

That single, smart move removes one of the key barrier to DCFC deployments: huge monthly bills. Not that we have a ton here in NorCal yet, but compare that to LA...

Anyway, and I won't say that often, thank you PG&E.

@MMF & co, re baseline quantities: I live next to you (south Palo Alto), with spouse, 2 kids, in a 170m2 (~1700sq.ft) home built in the 50s, and even with crap like electric cooktop & dryer, plasma TV, one computer on 24x7 (server,PVR), before the Leaf we were using 10 to 12kW*h/day.

Baseline "scam"? I don't think so. But yes, when faced with the need to buy a new appliance, I chose among the higher-efficiency models, and will continue to do so. It does pay off.

The Leaf doubled my usage, so I now hit the >200% tier, but it'd be deceitful to quote this as the price per kW*h because only the last few are that expensive.
My actual average per kW*h went from 11c to 13~14c/kW*h -- and that's including a voluntary +1.5c premium for 100% wind+solar power, a great option CPAU offers.

I'm about to add photovoltaic + hot water solar regardless. A little bit for the savings (payback is still in the 15 years range), but mostly to support the industry. I'll buy made-in-USA panels only; I also trust they will last longer than most Asian ones, and therefore turn out to be a better deal.

5 kW DC with optimizers (I'll be using SolarEdge) should cover all of my usage + the first 15kmiles/year on the Leaf.
You can use http://www.nrel.gov/rredc/pvwatts/ to get a good idea of how much a given system will produce.

Solar is very affordable nowadays, even domestic hardware. Shop around. In the SF bay area you might even get volunteers to design and install the system: http://www.sunwork.org/

· · 5 years ago

@Mr. O

I am also in the south Bay. A couple of points for you. Even with optimizers you will
be hard pressed to get 1500 KwH/ DC Kw here in the bay area with ideal south face.
So 5K may not suffice for all your needs. Howerver, 6KW probably will. Also instead
of a solar water heater for which you will still use natural gas backup in winter, have you
considered a heat pump water heater? It will run about 2000KWh per year in the bay
area and need another 1.4KW solar offset. I think it is a cheaper and cleaner option.
Pumping water to the roof can have additional hazards like leaks etc. Also electricity
will be used in the water pumps.

· · 5 years ago

Solar water heating is probably the best solar option for me.... It pulls the most heat out of the limited sun we have here in Buffalo, plus there is an included dinky solar panel to run the 1/30 hp circulator pump required for the basement storage tank... As with all plumbing you don't want leaks, but thats the risk you take with indoor plumbing.

I haven't heard anyone wanting to use an outhouse. I had to do that as a kid and i dont care to go back to it.

· · 5 years ago

"I live next to you (south Palo Alto), with spouse, 2 kids, in a 170m2 (~1700sq.ft) home built in the 50s, and even with crap like electric cooktop & dryer, plasma TV, one computer on 24x7 (server,PVR), before the Leaf we were using 10 to 12kW*h/day"

Well, my house is over 2,500 sq ft and my heater is on a lot so the 800W blower is on a lot. My wife works from home and her high power computers (3 of them) are on for at least 12 hours per day each. Dishwasher and Dryers are run every other day. Yes, I use heated dry, the newer version SUCKS b/c their heat is depending on the hot water temperature, not the heating of the dishwasher itself. We also cook a lot and stay up a long time which will require a lot of power as well.

Before we got a larger home, kids and wife used to work at her work place, we used to use about 13-15 KWh/day in a smaller 1,600 sq condo with electric water heater. Now, we are in the 25-30 KWh/day range including the Volt charging of about 10KWh/day.

· · 5 years ago

One thing needs to be pointed out that has not been mentioned. PV Solar has the fastest payback in CA when you primarily cut out the Tier 2 and higher usage. If you size the system to completely zero out your annual bill it will take longer to pay back. Zeroing out your net kWh usage takes even longer. This would usually give you a negative bill, but PG&E won't give you that money. Only if you actually send them more kWh than you use over the course of a year will they give you money back - and the rate is more like wholesale, so it's not worth it.

So, when you work with someone like SolarCity that has deals structured as Power Purchase Agreements, they will only design a system in that will push you down to baseline usage, not below. The reason is that the price of the power produced by their panels is roughly equivalent to the baseline pricing from PG&E.

· · 5 years ago

Actually at $2/watt for solar after rebates, the 25 yr production cost comes to about 9c/KwH including cost of money and one inverter replacement at 15 years. This is
cheaper than even PG&E baseline rates which I presume will be much higher after
25 years.

If you use time-of-use metering then zeroing out your usage will give you a negative bill indeed but my aim was to zero out my direct energy (carbon) footprint not just the cost. So I went ahead and did it. Otherwise I could have sized the system 1.5KW lower.

· · 5 years ago

@MMF, so it sounds like you were roughly meeting baseline quantities also. Sorry if I misunderstood, I thought you meant that this was basically impossible.

@Igh, thanks for the input. Unfortunately only part of my roof lends itself to solar, and it is more beneficial to fill that space with about 90% PV + 10% thermal, than PV alone.

According to PVWatts estimates, with ~21 modules or ~5 kW DC@STC, I should get 7 to 7.5 MW*h/year, so indeed just enough, maybe, but that's ok because the remainder if any would be wind power. Packing 6kW on the same surface could be done (e.g. with SunPower modules), but isn't economical.
I don't expect optimizers to boost production much in my case (maybe 2~5% mitigating mismatch and partial shading late afternoon), but they should allow me to squeeze in one more module (21 total, vs being stuck with 2 strings of 10), and the SolarEdge inverters are just too sweet a deal...

The solar water (pre)heater will be an integrated collector/storage aka ICS or batch heater, so no pump, no antifreeze, only dumb copper piping into a big box. The climate here allows this. It's not the most efficient but it should be extremely reliable.
The ICS just feeds the existing water heater. I don't plan on swapping it just yet, but a heat-pump would work great in this setup.

· · 5 years ago

Solar City charges about $0.09/KWh in their 20-year PPA plan. That is cheaper than the E-1 baseline rate. However, they won't install more panels than your roof can support or significantly below your baseline.

The good thing about the PPA plan is the warranty coverage and you have the option to buy the system at a later date for a delayed cash output and less paperwork.

· · 5 years ago

"so it sounds like you were roughly meeting baseline quantities also. Sorry if I misunderstood, I thought you meant that this was basically impossible"

Well, baseline is only 11KWh/day. I was in the 13-15KWh range with a small condo. Now I am in the 25KWh-30KWh/day range. 13-15KWh is still over 20-35% more than the baseline per day. That is a lot of reduction. That condo unit got NO AC and all gas appliance... So PG&E is expecting someone to live like a "hermit" to meet those unrealistic baselines...

I guess if someone lives by themselves in a 900 sq ft Apt with all gas appliance AND NOT spending much time there, then it is "possible". But using that case as a baseline for most of the multi-person family is a "scam"...

· · 5 years ago

I just wanted to correct myself from above:
"This led to my True-Up (E-6) only accumulating usage in the Part Peak period of 5-8pm from mid-Dec to mid-Feb. 95% of the Off Peak usage is being offset by my solar."
This was a mistake by PG&E on my bill. Part Peak is only 3 hours on weekday evenings, so what they billed me was clearly impossible. The error was introduced when they transferred my first 6 weeks of usage on my Net Meter from the traditional billing system to the NEM billing system.

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