California Asks You To Go Solar Then Wants To Tax You for It and Pay Less for the Energy You Generate

Simone Hogan /
Simone Hogan /

When people buy in on solar power, there is a massive initial investment. These panels are not cheap to manufacture, and they aren’t easy to get connected to your power grid. You need to have special wiring done, get the grid calibrated to the ideal angle for generating the power, and if you want to use this power during a power outage, you need to have batteries to store this energy.

Now, after all that, you’ve incurred a significant cost. Somewhere between $5,000 and $25,000 to get here. When you have extra power (like during the daytime and you’re not at home), you can sell this power back to the electric company. For many (with or without batteries), this is a smart choice and a way to cut down on that electric bill even further; maybe even generate some profit for your efforts.

However, California wants to change all this. As John Sexton explains in his article about this, there are big changes on the horizon. “Enter the California Public Utilities Commission which has apparently decided it’s time to alter the deal. This new plan called Net Metering 3.0 hasn’t been passed yet but is expected to be voted on next month. If it does pass, the state will start charging new solar installations a fee based on the size of their system. The fee is $8 per month for every kW of generating equipment you have installed on the roof. So if you have an 8kW system, you’ll owe SCE an additional $64 per month or over $700 per year. You don’t get anything for that money, it’s basically just a tax on everyone who installs solar equipment.”

Sexton knows what he’s talking about, but it gets much, much worse. “In addition, the new plan will reduce the amount the power company pays you for your excess energy from about 25 cents per kilowatt-hour (still less than what the power company charges you for a kilowatt-hour of power) down to about 6 cents per kWh. And that means there’s no way to break even on your bill anymore unless you also install an expensive battery system to save the excess energy for your own use. Of course, the battery costs almost as much as the entire system.”

For many, the idea of breaking even after 10 years is tolerable when these systems are expected to last around 20-30 years. However, with these changes, the break-even point becomes 10-15 years down the road. If it dies five years later, is it worth all that struggle, maintenance, and up-front costs? For many, the answer to that question is a resounding ‘no.’ This is music to the ears of the CPUC and anyone who dislikes saving money. It’s not like these companies need the money. Instead, they just want to tax those who can afford to help save the planet by using less electricity.

If you think you’ll fix the problem by just going off-grid, sorry to say but the California government has something for ya. It’s largely illegal to have an occupied dwelling without being connected to their power grid. That means you can’t just live solo and without them getting their dime. Now, there are ways around this like being in an area so far removed that they won’t run power to your house. Granted, people keep expanding the cities and moving rural to ‘get away from it all.’ And that, in turn, brings things like utility companies out to get things going.

Will Californians finally have enough and object, or will they silently keep taking it?