Article written by Mark Becker for Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today, June 2016.
California’s Net Metering laws, which are very advantageous to an investment in solar PV, have been extended for another 20+ years. Net Metering 2.0 has been regarded as a big win for the average electric consumer and the solar industry. NEM 2.0 introduces a small interconnection fee, an annual charge for solar “credits”, and a requirement to be on a Time of Use utility tariff (which is usually most advantageous when paired with solar PV in any case).
NEM 2.0 is about to become active. If all the “approved” solar PV projects in the PGE queue were interconnected today, the current and slightly more advantageous NEM 1.0 law would expire. A current “reservation in the NEM 1.0 queue” will only ultimately qualify if interconnected to the PGE grid before the Net Metering cap of 5% solar penetration is met, which is imminent. Even projects without a current “reservation”, which are interconnected in the next couple of months will qualify for NEM 1.0. Some projects will push some projects that are approved, but not interconnected, out of NEM 1.0 into NEM 2.0. Small commercial and residential projects currently have an advantage because of a relatively quick design, permit and installation process. “Get while the getting is good” is not quite appropriate advice, since NEM 2.0 will still be wonderfully advantageous for the solar PV investment and will be in place until 2020. However, NEM 1.0 provides slightly higher returns because there are virtually no additional fees associated with it. “Get while the getting is better” may be more appropriate advice. Summary: There are “slots” of solar PV interconnections remaining to qualify for NEM 1.0. If you “signed up now” you’d most likely qualify for NEM 1.0, assuming your solar contractor can complete your project within the next 2-3 months.
Recently, there was an interesting article in The Motley Fool, a financial website: “Rooftop Solar Transformation Could Hurt Solar City and Sun Run.” The article makes an interesting observation as to how current market forces seem to be advantaging local and smaller scale solar companies. The article also questions the potential for long-term success for national solar companies when there is not an equivalent business model in other construction related remodeling trades. The market forces referenced are consumer’s desires to own and not lease their solar systems, the ability of local installers to source the finest equipment at competitive cost, and the superior responsiveness of a local vs. national company.
Communicating to our customers a preferred solar panel and inverter product is a part of doing business. A choice of mature, proven technology vs. immature and new technology will always be, in my opinion, the best means to mitigate long-term risk and achieve lowest long-term project cost and lowest levelized cost of electricity. As with any purchase, choose the product wisely. If you choose high quality solar PV products, your project can indeed be a “one and done/no callback” project.
For consumer’s working with any type of contractor, www.CSLB.ca.gov is a California taxpayer funded website which educates a home or business owner about doing business with contractors. There is very specific guidance concerning the California Consumer’s rights, recourse in the case of being the victim of inappropriate contractor behavior such as increased prices for a previously quoted project, project delays, etc. There are also “checklists” to help in the planning stage to ensure that a construction project goes smoothly from start to finish.
Solar panels and solar inverter products are not commodities. There are many differentiators in product efficiency, aesthetics, reliability and long-term performance. Also, very few contractors offer labor warranties longer than the CSLB minimum “free from installation defect” required labor warranty of 10 years. Solar PV projects have excellent longevity. A consumer should be able to rely upon a contractor to provide a warranty for the expected life of the project, which is typically a minimum of 25 years. The greatest number of insurance claims results from water damage. Ensure those who are penetrating your roof, no matter the project type, have an appropriate roofing license to do so. Otherwise, you’ll lose the warranty on your roofing product and risk leaks in your home. The electric and roofing skills required to properly install a solar PV system are skills that require years to master. An aesthetically pleasing solar project also takes time effort to design and install.
Mark Becker is the President and business owner of GoSimpleSolar, by Semper Fidelis Construction Inc, CSLB 948715. GoSimpleSolar is one of the very few solar PV installers utilizing both licensed roofers and licensed electricians for installation work, project managed by a solar PV NABCEP professional. For more information visit www.GoSimpleSolar.com.