Al Gore Electranet Begins in California

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Yesterday the California legislature just raised the allowable limit on rooftop power from 2.5% of our grid to 5%, because we were in danger of exceeding the 2.5% – within a matter of months. The net-metering limit was about to be breached.

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Net metering is like roll-over minutes on cell phones. It means our utilities must credit us for our excess generation while we are at work on sunny afternoons, so that our night time electricity use is credited by the afternoon’s excess electrons stored on the grid in our “account”.

Under prior law, any net energy generation remaining at the end of each 12-month period was granted to our electric utility. (We got no end-of-year roll-over kilowatt-hours.)

But yesterday that got better, for us.

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AB 920 now gives solar homeowners two additional options for the excess kilowatt-hours in our credit at the end of the year.  We now have the option of rolling over month-to-month indefinitely – banking credits for later, when we can finally buy an electric car, maybe! – or we can take the cash at the end of each year. (The exact cash amount won’t be finalized by the CPUC till By January 1, 2011.)

So, if you are installing solar this year, you should feel free to overbuild your solar system, because now you can be paid cash (or rollover credits) for the excess. But be sure to sign up for one or other of the new end-of-year credits options with your solar estimator. Otherwise, per DSIRE: “If the customer makes no affirmative election for either option, the utility will be granted their NEG at the end of the 12 month period with no compensation to the customer”.

In China, now, they go a step further. There, the utilities don’t just credit you for your excess kilowatt-hours produced.  In China, utilities must buy all the electricity anyone produces.

That’s the real Al Gore Electranet. We’ll get there in this country, eventually. We took the first step, yesterday.

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