Solar, still great for the planet, not as great for your wallet
■ By Jacob Doane / Contributed
The talk at a recent San Jacinto City Council meeting was about electricity. Southern California Edison is one of the largest electric companies in the nation as well as the nation’s single largest purchaser of renewable power. It is also on Edison’s model that many smaller local electric companies are based off of. San Jacinto Power, the electricity provider for San Jacinto is no different and Edison has recently made some changes to their Time of Use rates or TOU’s that will be enacted by San Jacinto Power as well.
The simplest reason for utility companies to charge more during TOU is that it costs more to meet the electricity needs of consumers during hours of high demand. When more people consume energy, more power plants need to be operating. The TOU system rewards people who limit their energy use during those peak hours by charging them less. With the rising popularity and institutional use of solar panels, however, the rules are changing.
Current TOU rates apply between the hours of noon to 6 p.m. However, with the use of solar panels, the electricity usage during the day is greatly offset by the power that solar panels generate. California produces a lot of solar energy and the best time for producing solar energy is between the morning and afternoon. When the sun sets, the source of solar energy disappears and the electric companies become the source of our power. To counteract the abundance of solar energy the new TOU period is from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Councilwoman Crystal Ruiz made sure to pose the question, “Will the electric bills of citizens increase or decrease?” The answer? An increase. Homes with solar panels, but without the use of batteries to store that energy, will see an increase in their usage of SCE electricity and a rise in their electricity costs. Similarly, homes that use most of their electricity between the times of 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. will also see an increase. This change has already occurred and SCE has until 2020 to move all customers to these new TOU rates.
This change is not a negative result of solar power, but the opposite, it is a testament to its efficiency. California remains the undisputed leader when it comes to solar power in the U.S. Renewable energy is becoming more important as the effects of traditional power sources are slowly destroying Earth.