Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The "Real" Power to Choose!

The Texas Public Utility Commission has created and maintains a very good website tool to help Texas consumers shop, compare, and choose a Retail Electric Provider (REP) and electricity rate plan. See - http://powertochoose.org/

However, doesn’t the REAL “Power To Choose” include the consumer choice option to generate some or all of your own electricity?

And what better way to do that than using local energy from the sun! Local energy that isn’t wasted by being transmitted over transmission lines for long distances. And local energy that doesn’t require our precious water resources for electricity generation like that of our existing central generation thermal power plants.

To help distributed generation PV solar become more mainstream in Texas, we are asking our readers to take a few steps to help improve the PowerToChoose website and provide consumer pressure on Texas REPs.  These steps are:
  1. Request upgrades to the PowerToChoose website to enable net metering type rate plan searching and comparing alongside the existing search features.
  2. Contact your REP to apply pressure on them to offer competitive net metering type rate plans.
  3. Contact Texas policy makers and instruct them to insure that REPs are offering competitive net metering type rate plans.
Let’s expand on each of these items.

1. Request upgrades to the power to choose website to enable net metering type rate plan searching and comparing alongside the existing search features.

The current PowerToChoose website offers a separate search for renewable energy buyback plans here - http://powertochoose.org/en-us/Content/Resource/Selling-Renewable-Power. (Note you must read down the page a bit to actually find the link to another page that then allows a search for a REP.) While this provides some useful information to the electricity consumer, it lacks the rate plan comparison feature that is provided for all the other options on the website.  It is important that the website be modified so that the sell back and net metering type rate plans are searchable with actual price/kWh posted like all the other rate plans.  Doing this would allow consumers to find and compare the "competitive" net metering type rate plans, or identify the absence of them. If competitive plans are absent, then consumers can further apply pressure to REPs and the Public Utility Commission as required.  

Our request then to our readers is this. Go to this website - http://powertochoose.org/en-us/Content/ContactUs - and submit a request/complaint similar to this:
Reason for Contact: Complaint
Email address: <enter your email address>
Subject: Distributed Generation sell back or net metering type rate plans
As more distributed generation PV solar is being deployed across Texas, we need the powertochoose website to provide a search/filter alongside the other search/filters so that net metering type rate plans can be found and easily compared to other rate plans.  When will you have this feature available?
Thanks,
<provide your name>

2. Contact your REP to apply pressure on them to offer competitive net metering type rate plans.

It will be VERY IMPORTANT for CONSUMERS to provide the necessary influence on REPs to provide competitive net metering type rate plans.   Our research into why there are not state policies requiring all REPs to offer competitive net metering type rate plans is because of the position of Texas policy makers (i.e. the Texas Legislature and the Public Utility Commission).  Their position is that as more people install PV solar systems, the market will drive the REPs to offer net metering rate plans to stay competitive.  Therefore, unless the policy makers have their positions changed by the voters, it must be the consumers who ultimately drive the REPs to offer competitive net metering type plans.

So the request to our readers to help provide this consumer influence is in these two parts:
  • If you find, select, and use a REP that offers a net metering type plan, but you feel it is not competitive, then contact them and tell them that the next time your plan is up for renewal, you will switch to a REP that offers a more competitive plan.  Whether you actually do it or not is not significant when you call to tell them - just start applying some consumer pressure.
  • If you are using a REP that has a more competitive rate plan, but does not offer a competitive net metering rate plan, then contact them with these questions and statements:
    • Ask them where does the excess electricity go that you are occasionally providing to the grid? Who uses it? Who gets paid for it?  (See NOTES at the end of this posting.)
    • Then indicate to them that since you don’t really want to provide free electricity to them or someone else on the grid, you will be switching to another REP that offers a net metering type rate plan when your plan is up for renewal. Again, whether you actually do it or not is not significant when you call to tell them - just start applying some consumer pressure.
  • Note - It is not necessary to immediately switch to a net metering type plan for a newly installed PV solar system to operate. However, if you do plan to immediately switch, some of our Solarize Plano participants have had the cancellation fees of their current rate plan waived by asking and making the point that they wouldn’t be switching if their current REP provided a net metering type plan.

3. Contact Texas policy makers and instruct them to insure that REPs are offering competitive net metering type rate plans.

So far, what we have been able to find when searching all across the state using the PowerToChoose website is that there are only three of the 112 REPs that are offering net metering type rate plans.  So now would be a good time to start contacting the Texas policy makers to get them to address this electricity “market design” change.

Additionally, when you contact your state legislators and PUC commissioners be sure to ask them while they are wrestling with ways to tweak the state electricity “market design” to get more peak power generated across Texas to address our peak demand challenges, why they just don’t go outside on a bright sunny summer day and look UP at one of the best solutions available!

For additional information on the significance and importance of distributed generation (DG) and net metering, see this link - Additional Information on Distributed Generation and Net Metering

Thanks in advance for your participation to help improve the competitive landscape in Texas for net metering type rate plans.

Best Regards and Shine On!
Plano Solar Energy Advocates (LH)

NOTES: (added 9/10/13)
1. For all you tax experts out there - if your REP doesn't pay you for your excess production, shouldn't you be able to deduct the value of the excess production on your taxes as a donation to the REP?
2. Or alternatively, how about starting a movement that REPs that are getting free electricity from your excess production be
A. required to account for the total amount of electricity from their customers that is being put into the grid for free,
B. required to put that total amount into a fund,
C. the fund must be used to assist people having trouble paying their electricity bill. 
Thoughts?

2 comments:

  1. Who are the three REPs who offer net metering type rate plans?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To find the plans in your area, go to this website - http://powertochoose.org/en-us/Plan/Offers - and enter your zipcode

      Delete