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The Last Day of Net-Metering Brings Memories of Fighting for Every Solar Watt
by Bradley L. Bartz
Los Angeles, CA (SPX) Jul 04, 2017

illustration only

Up at 5am to revise a single line diagram for a solar grid tie system so SCE can give Permission-To-Operate (PTO). Over the years the single line diagram was accepted or rejected based on the particular way that an "inspector" learned it.

"Once, George Cheatham, a planner at Los Angeles Building and Safety told me 'that is not a single line diagram.' He then went on to get opinions from other staff walking by. Then, I turned the paper 180 degrees and he said, 'oh, that's a single line diagram," reflects Bradley Bartz, President of ABC Solar Incorporated.

I remember that because of what I call the Cheatham Solar Paradox, which is when the planner asks for unobtanium to get a permit. In this case Mr. Cheatham asked for the ARC Fault rating of the LADWP service. LADWP service planners would not give that information until I had a permit. Thus I was stuck in a tautology.

SCE has never been faster in connecting residential grid-tie systems than during the last six months. We even got PTO in less than 12 hours last month. This change from waiting the mandated 30 days to PTO to hurry up and connect happened in November 2016. At an SCE Solar Net-Metering Conference an SCE executive said to me that solar will hit its net-metering cap soon. She said it with a gleam in her eyes.

I remember that so vividly. It was kinda spooky and it was before SCE announced the end of Net-Metering 1.0.

Now, on the last day I am struggling to get PTO and Net-Metering 1.0 for a client who was finaled by the City of Torrance on May 1, 2017. Stuck in the tautology of the single line diagram with SCE, after delays from the red-tape team. The ratepayer abuse continues.

A project in El Segundo is ready for inspection but the city is closed and won't open until after the Fourth of July. SCE gets to live in its own bubble of laws. In any other government related activity official holidays get deadlines extended. Since ABC Solar cannot get an inspection because of holidays it seems unfair. It is the ratepayer that gets harmed by SCE, again.

Also waiting with baited breathe for a PTO for a client finaled by the City of Long Beach on June 27, 2017.

ABC Solar Inc installed the first solar grid-tie system in the City of Long Beach. Now with the SCE dance we might get the last PTO in Long Beach too. That is quite a history ABC Solar has in Southern California solar. Long Beach is 398/480 of California cities for solar adoption. This is nothing to be proud of. (Anaheim is in last place - the mouse house is a dirty energy house.)

The last day of Net-Metering 1.0 is just starting. The memories of interfacing with SCE for solar clients is vivid and somewhat disconcerting. SCE did not behave in good faith for solar. Not just in its bad front-facing customer service, but in bullying clients and hazing solar companies. LADWP does not get a pass, but their Net-Metering is totally different and the same electricity is much cheaper for ratepayers than SCE.

The true stories of SCE Net-Metering show what happens to the bureaucracy of a monopoly, especially when it is threatened by solar. There are frankly too many abuses by SCE to document, but one stands out.

In the City of Lancaster ABC Solar built a 36-panel solar grid-tie system for a groovy 80-year-old father of another client. It was oversized for his 12 months of usage, but the client said his kids are expected to move back in. A clear and recognizable reason to be larger than 100% of the average.

ABC Solar worked with SCE to answer their questions. SCE basically said that if we do not take off 6 of the panels they will not let the system connect to the grid and the client will be denied his rebate.

I called the client and told him the situation and offered to take off the 6 panels, at no charge, or fight SCE. He told me to go get 'em.

SCE Net-Metering office, with an SCE lawyer, called the client and basically threatened him about removing the 6 panels. I was totally aghast when I heard about the call. One clear thing was that the SCE lawyer did not announce herself as a lawyer on the phone call. I found that to be a violation of her duties as a lawyer. I called SCE and complained loudly, but they stiffened their position. Shit.

I then called the Mayor of the City of Lancaster and asked for a copy of the operating contract between SCE and the city for providing electrical service to its citizens. Ask and thy shall receive? Yep, the Mayor was happy to comply and his staff expressed no love of SCE. Particularly after I explained the elder abuse of my client by SCE.

Wow! The 1978 contract for electric service with the City of Lancaster was with Southern Company, a bankrupt firm.

I immediately informed SCE that I will ask the Mayor and the voters of the City of Lancaster to fire SCE and that SCE does not have a valid electrical service contract with the city.

Literally, 12 hours later. "Oh, Mr. Bartz, of course you can have 36 panels," said SCE as PTO was hastily issued.

Oh Net-Metering 1.0 I am going to miss you.

Over the years ABC Solar has been forced to file compliance complaints with the Public Utilities Commission against SCE. We had 100% success with these efforts, but it should be noted that the system is broken.

Dear Governor Brown, the most shameful rule of the Public Utilities Commission is that SCE ratepayers can only build solar to 100% of their annual usage. Rooftops first. Before you continue to blanket the desert, our California rooftops should be built their max solar potential.

In Japan the target is 30% of their housing stock will go solar by 2030. Each Japanese home is expected to generate enough power for three homes. That means that the entire housing stock of Japan will be off-line leaving commerce with more and more energy.

In the USA it is said that one home can power eight of its neighbors with a filled-roof solar grid-tie system. Our homes are big.

The cost of solar is such that "overbuilding" is logical. With the first 100% of annual average usage at retail and then excess generation at wholesale is fine. Most of my clients will overbuild given the opportunity.

SCE complains about solar when ratepayers own it. But if they own it, it will work fine. Japan has the grid software to integrate massive amounts of "intermittent" solar and wind. SCE does too, but they are the monopoly bully crying foul.

8:36am, Tomoko came to my Solar Man Cave and told me new Single Line Diagram passed SCE and moved back for "Final NEM review to our NEMIC department." This client is on travels and he sent me a note from China just now saying thanks. Now, that's cool.

What is Net-Metering? During the solar day a photovoltaic (PV) grid-tie system usually produces more energy than the home is using. This excess energy is sent back to SCE by 'spinning-the-meter-backwards'. The SCE meter records both usage and production. The difference between the two is the net-meter results. Net-metering is an annual contract with solar ratepayers for 20 years.

Net-Metering 1.0 clients are The Early Adopters.

I am proud that my first SCE client was in Long Beach and was installed on 12-OCT-2002, fifteen years ago. The inspector asked, "Where does the water go?"

The SMA Sunnyboy and Siemens Solar 75 watt panels are still up and running today.

Don't get me started on 2010. This is the year SCE inspected almost every single one of ABC Solar PV grid-tie installations. The rule was for SCE to inspect 1 out of each 7 installations. SCE abused ABC Solar by hitting every single install with expensive and time-consuming inspections. Since I had to do each one, as President, I was continually flabbergasted by the lack of response of SCE management to my complaints of over inspections. Our systems did not fail.

The last straw was at two story 5:12 pitch installation in Manhattan Beach, California with Sunpower panels and a battery backup SMA Sunny Island and grid-tie system. The young college student SCE "inspector", against my advice, climbed up the 2-story ladder and mounted the roof without safety gear0. I was not pleased, but she insisted.

After, I wrote to SCE that this is a clear violation of OSHA rules and that SCE has put ABC Solar Inc and my client, their ratepayer, in jeopardy. I wrote that I will be reporting them to OSHA for this violation.

Do you know what happened next? You guess it! SCE stopped inspecting our solar PV grid-tie installations.

SCE lost the equation. The simple equation that their ratepayer is their client.

9:50am and PTO issued for City of Long Beach client. A collective sigh of relief in the office.

It's a long time until solar midnight and the end of Net-Metering 1.0 in SCE territory.

According to the website, California Leads the Nation with 681,488 solar projects and 5,415 megawatts installed as of 04/30/2017. According to the stats SCE has 222,881 projects and 1,745.34 megawatts. That is supposed to be 5% of ratepayers. I smell bad math.

SCE services 14 million customers. 1,745MW is about 0.5 of a Solar Panel per ratepayer.

Ok, what is Net-Metering 2.0?

The major changes according to an Email from SCE Net-Metering department:
1. New Interconnection Fee - NEM 2.0 customers are required to pay an interconnection fee along with their interconnection request. The current fees are:

a. $75 for an IR that is 1 megawatt (MW) and smaller b. $800 for an IR that is greater than 1 MW

2. Nonbypassable Charges ("NBCs") - NBCs are assessed on the net of kilowatt hours (kWh) consumed in each metered interval (i.e., generally, at the hourly interval level for residential customers and at the 15-minute interval level for non-residential customers) and cannot be offset by exported kWh in other intervals. NBCs will be due and payable monthly.

3. Mandatory TOU Rates - NEM 2.0 customers must be on a TOU rate. Residential customers will be defaulted to Schedule TOU-D-A if they are not already on a TOU rate. The only exception applies to residential customers who do not have a TOU rate available to them (e.g., master-metered customers served on a DM/DMS rates).

Wow, that's a mouthful. Let's see if we can decipher it. 1st, the $75 bucks for residential is a onetime fee.

2nd the Nonbypassable Charges ("NBCs") are as crooked as the day is long. This is a travesty. The PUC really did not do their job. (This is the reason for the Tesla Powerwall push).

3rd the mandatory TOU rates can be good for clients if they build to 100%. It would be great for clients if they could build to their roof's max capacity.

If I were on the Public Utilities Commission I would focus on providing business with the ability to use as much electricity as their creative heart's desire. The idea that business must curtail activities because of SCE rates saps California productivity. With a true focus on renewable energies we can provide our citizens with as much power as they want.

We should celebrate when renewables make a grid surplus. If the Japanese math of 1 home can power 3 of its neighbors is right then the millions of homes of California can power the West and probably part of Mexico too. And, just with solar on residential rooftops.

Electricity makes things spin. The more they spin the more we win.

Ok, at 3pm I called SCE Net Metering department and was coldly told:

All projects are reviewed based on when the project was received. Hey brad

Whatever position it is in it will be reviewed in that position.

If you want a complaint noted you can email: (So I filed a complaint)

"Dear SCE, Please Make this email an official Complaint of Process for SCE1195XX. We believe that this client has jumped through enough hoops and made a significant investment to go solar. We expect SCE to honor NEM 1.0." - Brad. (Note - Rejected.)

The 'kind' operator did say that if our application has no deficiencies then our client will get NEM 1.0 even if review date is after June 30, 2017.

Hummmmmmph, my staff stated, "it is just not fair that they make new 'deficiencies' after the fact."

Another conversation with SCE Net-Metering customer number 11, Dency Nelson revealed, "In 1999, I thought the only way to take advantage of rooftop solar would be to have a garage full of batteries."

Dency continued with, "Grid-tied, Net-metering changed all that, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to let my roof power my home and my cars for almost 20 years, something I never could have afforded to do without Net Metering. Not having this available for new adopters is a tragedy, and removes an important incentive for moving our nation and our planet closer to safe, renewable energy."

With a look to the future Dency added, "Fortunately, the cost and size of batteries have become more affordable, so the future for those who want to be energy independent means moving off of the grid. So be it!"

The Last Day of Net-Metering 1.0 is not done yet, but I need to file this report.

Bradley L. Bartz is founder and president of ABC Solar Incorporated of California. He writes for and other publications.

Californians take a shine to solar power
Los Angeles (AFP) July 2, 2017
Jacquie Barnbrook had grown tired of the high electricity bills and her gas-guzzling luxury car when she finally decided to take the plunge last year. The 52-year-old Los Angeles resident joined an ever-growing number of Californians who are switching to solar power for their energy needs in a bid to not only save money but to also do their part for the environment in a state setting the pac ... read more

Related Links
ABC Solar
All About Solar Energy at

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