Some electric vehicle owners in California think they’ve been sideswiped by changes to a utility rate plan that helped them pay for their photovoltaic (PV) systems.
Vehicle owners like Joseph Gray are critical of a decision by the California Public Utilities Commission allowing Southern California Edison to alter a time-of-day rate structure and make it harder for them to recoup the cost of photovoltaic systems installed to keep their vehicles charged, .
Gray bought his first electric vehicle, a Chevy Volt, in 2011 and then spent another $68,000 out of pocket for a PV system to keep it charged, Gray says at a . The size of the system and payback calculations were based on a rate plan from Southern California Edison (SCE) called TOU-D-TEV.
“When you produce your own solar during peak, and send it back to SCE, they would give you a credit equal to what they would have charged you for the same energy,” Gray says. “Also, because I shifted a lot of my energy use to super off peak, I was banking a lot of credit during the day which more than covered my usage in other dayparts. “
Gray modeled his system to break even in 6 1/2 years, and actually finished his first year with PV with a $300 surplus. The SCE rate changes threw those calculations out the window.
Rate changes lead to a petition drive
Among the changes SCE made, Gray says, was to shorten the summer season from seven to five months, and shift peak hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“Whether a wild coincidence or not, these changes will drastically impact existing solar owners as our systems will only earn a fraction of the credits we have earned in the past,” Gray writes at the website. “SEC has figured out a way to stop paying us for our solar generation, at present rates, at a time when most of us have only recently made our solar investments in good faith and with no knowledge that these rate changes were about to occur.”
Gray argues the TOU-D-TEV plan should be grandfathered. The website includes links to local state representatives, the Public Utilities Commission, and the governor’s office as well as an online petition to roll back the decision.
For its part, SEC told Gray in a letter he would be transitioned to a new rate plan in February that would actually work to his advantage.
“These new rate options may help to reduce your electric vehicle charging costs because they offer a longer off-peak period when electricity prices are the lowest, and a shorter on-peak period when electricity prices are the highest,” SEC told him.