Do you trust your electricity supplier?

Before you invest in solar power, be sure that you know exactly what your local electricity company will pay you for any exported energy.  The good utilities will pay you the Feed In Tariff rate (if your state has one) PLUS the standard rate per kwh. The meanie ones will just pay you the FIT rate.

But consider yourself lucky you aren’t in Florida where Mary Clark, an environmentalist and rancher learned that lesson the hard way. She invested $500,000 in one of the state’s biggest private solar arrays, hoping that this would go a long way toward reducing her energy costs.

Clark has found that her monthly bill has doubled, and Florida Power & Light (FPL) is now selling Mary back the excess energy she has produced at twice the cost that they are paying her for it!.

The problem is that Mary has 9 electricity meters, and the solar panels are only commected to 2 of them. Those tightwad pen pushers that work at FPL are saying that to use her solar energy in the circuits connected to the other 7 meters, she has to buy back the electricity exported by the two that are connected to the panels!

While FPL is not violating the law with such rates, the new legislation—intended to arouse interest in solar power by promising to reimburse private producers if they do—is obviously flawed. Apparently, the utilities in Florida have far more influence on legislators than they should. They are actually discouraging widespread investment in alternative sources, which is a key factor in conquering global warming.

The problem Mary faces should resonate with groups and individuals who are attempting to share the energy generated by solar panels among multiple electric meters, buildings, or accounts. At this point, Mary has received no assistance from her state legislators, they agree with FPL that the design used by her solar contractor was flawed, and she must live with the consequences.

In Florida, both farmers and ranchers have vast amounts of open land and roof space that could easily accommodate the installation of solar panels and increase energy production. A solar law passed in 2008 is problematic, because it disregards businesses, farms, and homes that have multiple meters, and many do. Also, the energy consumption at a location such as Mary’s ranch covers a wide area, and the solar panels do not.

Mary assumed that FPL would combine the bills from her nine meters, and that she would be able to deduct the solar energy her system produced from that bill. This didn’t happen because a 1969 law is still on the books that disallows taking such a step. Until that changes, state regulators say that the rates will be prohibitive.

About Finn Peacock

I'm a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Solar and Energy Efficiency nut, dad, and founder of SolarQuotes.com.au. My last "real job" was working for the CSIRO in their renewable energy division.

Comments

  1. Origin energy here in Victoria is also pulling a swifty on solar customers. They bill us ‘retail’ for all electricity used, most of which is at peak rate in the normal hours of human activity (7am – 11pm) and then deduct the solar generation Kwh hours (at a lower ‘wholesale’ rate).
    We purchased a solar system on the understanding that we would pay only for electricity used over and above what we generated. On our last bill, this meant a 25% increase on costs. Fair???

  2. It seems to me that every where else is getting screwed over by dishonest governments that allow dishonest practices by dishonest companies (well, OK, that means ALL companies). I am planning on having solar installed and here in South Australia everyone I know with solar has much lower bills. Although the rate you get back from supplying back to the grid is being constantly reduced and I can see a day when you will get nothing. All you can do then is supply as much of your own as possible and forget the grid.

    So the solution for all you other people getting “done” by your governments and greedy power companies, move to South Australia! Come on down…

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