*Update*: A PG&E employee contacted me after reading this blog, and basically he agreed that the current scheme isn't perfect. He actually said that we're getting creditted a bit too much because the credits do not account for their line transmission charges. I'll admit not fully knowing the gritty details between transmission line charges since I know I do pay a small flat fee for that per month, and by offetting my neighbour's load during high demand sunny hours, I should offload their transmission lines a little bit, but effectively he said that the credits are a little bit too high, which means that you just don't get paid when they get negative.
While I can see his point, I still don't full agree with that someone who makes more electricity than they make isn't compensated for time of use prices at all, but he also pointed out that it's difficult for people with solar to be fully compensated since they do not provide a contract and guarantee of production, like their other providers do.
All in all, it's kind of a mess and the current program isn't ideal, but it is better than nothing.
We got a solar system on our house based on our use up to the solar system setup. We then managed to save eletricity by making a lot of improvements in our house and we are now in a situation where we do not produce more Kwh than we use after one year, but once you add time of use weight to Kwh (which is what E6B time of use pricing does), we end up with a negative bill, which we get no credit for.
I've been told that California now does allow people who produce more than they use to get 8c per Kwh produced. This however does not account for time of use, and in our case I was told that we won't be getting a penny of the $38 credit we have with you after a year because we still used 1200Kwh more than we produced (that is correct).
I find this a weird way to look at Kwh pricing. We all know that all electricity is not created equal and that night and winter electricity is cheaper in California. We also know that solar panel folks like us help you, PG&E, not fire up gas plants to make up for the extra load that happens during peak times in summer. This is why you sell that electricity for more money (although many customers for some reason still get a flat price for electricity, which is unfortunate since you don't entice them to shift their load to cheaper times).
In our case, with the current law, we are now enticed not only to stop bothering trying to save further electricty, but we're even enticed to start wasting electricity and use more electrical appliances instead of gas ones, because that electricity will be free (we have a $38 credit that we won't get paid for, so we might as well use up that credit and bring it up to 0). I could also do stupid things like running an extension cord to my neighbours, but obviously you don't want me to do that.
So, can we please fix up the law and just pay net producers like us for the actual credit on their bill up to a certain value if you really need to somehow stop people from producing too much (and I would question that need, but that's a different topic).
for those who missed the math, here's an example for last year (prices are approximate because TOU makes for fuzzy math, but it's enough to get the idea.
Last year, we had a $38 credit (about 470Kwh at 8c/Kwh) and 1400Kwh use. If we had:
used an extra 500Kwh, our true up bill would have been about $2.40 and we would have paid $2.40 at the end of the year.
used an extra 470Kwh, our true up bill would have been about $0 and we would have paid/gotten nothing at the end of the year.
saved an extra 1400Kwh, our true up bill would have been about -$150 and we would have gotten nothing at the end of the year.
saved an extra 1500Kwh, our true up bill would have been about -$158 and we would have gotten $8 at the end of the year.
In other words, for those who are counting, the current pricing method pretty much puts a $150 "hole" where you can use more or save a total of 1800Kwh and your end bill is exactly the same.
PG&E, this is not a good way to encourage people to be green and save electricity. With our current bill I have no incentive to save any further since I'd have to save a lot to see a single penny. On the other end, we can use about 400kWh (about a month's worth for smaller consumers) and not pay a penny for it.
PG&E: Please fix this, it's broken.
For those who are curious, here is our use/balance for 2011: