Re: Subject: Re: Making 'Clean Energy' Pay
From: Deborah Mensch (
Date: Sat, 14 Oct 2006 20:11:48 -0700 (PDT)
The "gift to the grid" concept is definitely not true everywhere, even in
the United States. Back a couple of years ago when we checked in the east
San Francisco Bay Area for our private home (can't remember if this was
Alameda Power and Telecom or Pacific Gas & Electric), the deal was that if
your meter ran forward (getting power from the utility), you paid the going
rate of something like 14 cents per kwh, and if it ran backward (giving
power to the utility) they paid you about half that, or 7 cents/kwh. Their
reasoning was that half the charge for power was for the generation and half
for the distribution network -- and even if we give them back energy, we're
not helping defray the costs of distribution, so we don't get paid for it.

Subsidies for new systems in the area were based on your average power
consumption for the previous year. They would subsidize for each watt of
capacity you installed, but only up to 110% (I think) of your average usage.
The utility didn't want to put people in the business of generating lots of
power for sale; they were just acting to increase solar capacity, probably
because it reduced peak demand. (Remember rolling blackouts? The Bay Area
gets great sun during the summer, when demand is highest.) Reduced
greenhouse gas emissions are also nice, of course.

So check on your own utility's deal, and find out whether it's changed since
the last time you looked. Good installation subsidies can make solar better
than break-even for electicity costs over the life of the system, even if
you don't sell power back to the utility. And you gotta love zero-carbon
energy production, or I do anyway. (Yeah, producing the panels takes energy
and other resources. Wonder if they use solar for the power?)

-Deborah Mensch
Now living in Pleasant Hill Cohousing, Pleasant Hill, CA (Bay Area), where
we have a PV system that supplies some of the electricity for our common
house, and a solar heater for the pool.

On 10/14/06, Robert Moskowitz <robert [at]> wrote:

I'm not an expert in this, but friends of mine have solar on their
(non-cohousing) house in southern California, and the best they can do
is get free electricity for the year. The utility will not fork over any
cash. If my friends produce more electricity than they use, it's
considered a gift to the grid. So when they installed the solar, they
had to calculate their average electricity use and put in just enough
solar panels to make that much, and no more. If this is true everywhere,
then you can stop counting on power generation to be a cash cow. The
best you can hope for is to zero out your electric bills.

My friends say that calculating the Return on Investment and the Pay
Back period depend on lots of assumptions and variables, but the simple
scenario (how much did we pay? how much does that investment save us?)
comes out to payback in around 18 years. On a strictly financial basis,
you can do a lot better. But of course if you value saving the Earth,
then this kind of investment makes sense on more than a strictly
financial basis.

Robert Moskowitz
Santa Monica, CA

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.