Get Paid to Save the Planet: Consumer-based Solar Power Production
While we have all heard of the massive earth-saving benefits offered by solar power technology, not everyone is aware of the financial incentives involved. Even though there are renewable energy tax credits and rebates available to people who install solar power units which meet certain requirements, these types of programs usually feature a one-and-done deal, simply helping to soften the overall expense of materials and installation versus providing ongoing financial compensation. In a world where feeding off the main power grid is all too often made to appear like the only option, continuing our over-dependence on non-renewable resources or energy production that is not optimized to environmentally friendly standards, the average consumer definitely deserves a much greater degree of incentive for attempting to produce their own clean energy.
Even though doing your part to save the environment is obviously a great incentive, the ability to actually afford the means to do so often presents an entirely different situation. Solar cell production and solar photovoltaic (PV) technology continue to evolve at an impressive rate and have reported some exponential growth over the last couple of years which has helped us to start approaching much more cost-effective solutions, which will help make producing one's own renewable energy much more feasible. However, installing a solar power production system, PV system or building a solar energy farm to provide direct energy for one's home or business still represent significant investments. While the back-end utility savings can eventually help you recoup your initial materials and installation costs, especially when accounting for cost of ongoing maintenance, these savings usually do not add up soon enough to offset expenses incurred by the consumer to allow for a financially feasible solution. However, both residential and non-residential entities now have opportunities to actually earn ongoing credits and payments instead of just shaving expenses off their monthly utility bills.
Net MeteringAn opportunity for one of the greatest degrees of incentive to both residential and non-residential entities for producing their own solar power is found within local programs where electric utility companies pay or credit customers for surplus energy they create (renewable energy credits or RECs). U.S. consumers also have the backing of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which states that all public electric utilities are required to provide net metering to their customers (any electric consumer that the electric utility provides service to). However, it is important to note that utility companies will now make less profit, and since this new opportunity ultimately means that you now have the ability to essentially create a degree of competition with your utility company as they're no longer the only local entity producing energy, utilities do not readily advertise net metering and you will need to actively request it.
AB 920: California Solar Surplus Act of 2009On October 11, 2009, former Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law AB 920. This law mandates that California utilities provide their Net Energy Metering (NEM) customers with compensation for electricity that they produce beyond the on-premises load over the course of the year (12 months). Up to this point, customers were only awarded discounted monthly utility bills based on the surplus energy they created onsite. Now, those who generate a net surplus of energy over a 12-month period are eligible for cash payment from their utility provider.
However, while this compensation provision was effective as of 2010, the provisions of this law were not scheduled for implementation until this year (2011). In addition, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) who regulates privately owned electric utilities has been tasked with regulating how much customers will be paid under this new program, but concrete compensation values do not appear to have been established yet. This means that while you can sign up for net surplus compensation immediately, the specific compensation rate provided by your particular utility company may not be established yet due to a number of factors, including the possibility that their rate-proposal application submitted to the CPUC may still be processing.