Thinking about adding a solar photovoltaic (PV) system to your home? It can be a great investment — for your pocketbook and the planet. But before installing your panels, it’s important to understand some recent changes in utility billing. The state has enacted new regulations for net energy metering, and time-of-use electricity rates are now required by San Diego Gas & Electric for newly installed residential systems.

To help residential SDG&E customers understand their potential electricity bills with solar under the new rules and rates, CSE has created a free, online residential Solar Savings Calculator that gives the most up-to-date information available to help save energy and money by going solar.

What is net energy metering?

Net energy metering (NEM) is a billing mechanism that credits you for electricity produced by your PV system but not needed for your home. This excess power is exported to the grid, and you are given credit that can be used to buy power when your system is not producing as much electricity as you need or to provide a refund for overgeneration. However, you will be paid for the excess production at a wholesale market price, which is lower than the retail price.

Most residential customers get the greatest value from a solar system that does not produce more electricity than the home uses over the course of a year. If you pay to install a PV system that produces more electricity than you consume in a year, it will be more difficult to earn a return on your investment.

What changed with NEM?

SDG&E residential customers who install solar before 2019 will have their bill calculated under “NEM 2.0” rules enacted last year. There are three main differences between the previous NEM rules and NEM 2.0. The first is a one-time fee to interconnect your PV system to the grid, which is currently $132 for the average single-family home system of 3-5 kilowatts.

The second is a non-bypassable charge, which is designed to recover costs from all utility customers for public service programs. For solar customers that means a portion of the cost for energy consumed from the grid (currently under $0.02/kilowatt-hour) can’t be paid for, or by-passed, using solar generation credits.

Finally, the biggest change is that new residential solar customers are required to enroll in time-of-use (TOU) rates. Under TOU rates, customers pay a different amount for electricity depending on the time. Traditional residential rate structures charge customers based on the volume of electricity consumed within a billing period.

TOU rates also determine how much solar energy produced by a PV system is worth. For example, solar energy produced in the morning, during the lower-priced off-peak period will be worth less than solar energy produced in the afternoon, during the on-peak period.


Peak-Pricing: The graph shows the average daily electricity consumption and potential solar production for a representative family of four in San Diego County as calculated by CSE’s solar calculator.

How do TOU rates work?

Customers who go solar under NEM 2.0 rules are guaranteed the generation credit for energy provided to the grid, however, the prices of electricity assigned to each hour of the day may change – ultimately impacting the financial value of the solar system.

California’s large utilities have expressed interest in shifting the on-peak, or highest cost, times to later in the day to more closely align prices with the utility’s cost of providing electricity when it is scarce vs. when it’s abundant on the electric grid. If approved, this change would mean that credits earned by solar-produced power in midday would be less valuable than they are now, while power purchased from the grid in the late evening would become more expensive.

The impact of this change will be different for each household depending on when they consume energy. In general, for customers with solar PV who primarily use electricity in the evening and early morning when the sun is not shining, shifting the on-peak period will result in higher monthly bills.

A new peak period: This graph shows the average daily energy consumption and potential solar production for a representative family of four in San Diego County as calculated by the CSE Solar Savings Calculator. A potential new on-peak period for SDG&E’s DR-SES rate, the typical rate for residential NEM customers, has been overlain in red on the graph. 

Benefits of the solar calculator

The Solar Savings Calculator gives you a way to become better informed about investing in solar PV for your home. It allows you to clearly view how much electricity you are using now and at what times of day, and then calculates how much electricity various sized PV systems are likely to generate at your home. You can use this consumption and production data, in conjunction with cost estimates for purchasing or leasing a system that you obtain independently from local contractors, to determine the right size system for your individual goals.

Start calculating today, so that you can plan to save energy and money tomorrow.

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Corruption Perceptions Index 
Transparency International 
2015 showed that people working together can succeed in fighting corruption. Although corruption is still rife globally, more countries improved their scores in 2015 than declined. Five of the 10 most corrupt countries also rank among the 10 least peaceful places in the world. Northern Europe emerges well in the index – it’s home to four of the top five countries. But just because a country has a clean public sector at home, doesn’t mean it isn’t linked to corruption elsewhere.
 
An Economy For the 1%
Oxfam
The global inequality crisis is reaching new extremes. The richest 1% now have more wealth than the rest of the world combined. Power and privilege is being used to skew the economic system to increase the gap between the richest and the rest. A global network of tax havens further enables the richest individuals to hide $7.6 trillion. The fight against poverty will not be won until the inequality crisis is tackled.

The freedom ecosystem
Deloitte University Press
How many slaves work for you?” Blunt as it may be, this question speaks to a harsh reality. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), more than 21 million people are globally enslaved. These individuals are victims of the world’s fastest-growing illicit industry, generating an estimated $150 billion of illegal profits each year. From the overseas supply chains of our favorite products to domestic workers in our own neighborhoods, we all directly and indirectly touch slavery, and by working together can help abolish it. While the problem of modern slavery is a persistent and hidden crime, those working to end it are crippled by three significant challenges: prevailing gaps in collecting and sharing data, limited resources to address slavery, and a challenging policy environment.
 
Facebook Learns To Make Money Where There Isn’t Much
TechCrunch
$0.32. That’s the tiny amount Facebook used to earn off each user in the developing world at the beginning of 2012. It was understandable. Many of the citizens of India, Brazil, and Mexico don’t have a lot to spend. That was hard on Facebook’s bottom line. These people’s homes didn’t have high-speed mobile networks or them couldn’t afford them, which meant loading the ad-filled News Feed was an agonizing experience. They were on feature phones or older smart phones with small screens so ads didn’t look that enticing. And some simply didn’t have the buying power to purchase what advertisers typically sold in other markets.
 
2016 Index of Economic Freedom
Heritage Foundation
The Index, a data-driven, comprehensive assessment of economic freedom in countries on every continent, is about more than just country rankings. It is an exploration into the sources of enduring economic dynamism and how they relate to each other in ensuring opportunities for the greatest number of people.  The 2016 Index, our 22nd edition, once again provides ample evidence of the benefits of economic freedom, both to individuals and to societies.

Could Solar-Powered Drones Deliver Electricity To The Developing World?
Co.Exist
Distributed energy systems are a good idea for homes that aren't hooked up to the grid. But distributing solar panels to remote areas in the developing world is hard. That's why Mobisol, a German installer, is testing whether drones could do some of the heavy lifting. "The last mile can be a headache, and, since we have a couple of engineers who can develop drones, we thought maybe there's a leapfrog we can make in how we bring appliances and pieces of kit to a customer," says Thomas Duveau, the company's business development manager.  Every Mobisol customer has a solar home system that can be put to productive use, he says. The company is testing the idea that it could put a little recharging station on every customer's roof—that way drones could move around, say, large areas of Rwanda or Tanzania. In other words, Mobisol's customers would become part of the drone network, offering their rooftop panels as micro-charging stations. In return, customers would get credits on their bills, offsetting their monthly repayment costs. 

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Photo credit: Flickr user fdecomit

Also available in: العربية | Spanish

Noor concentrated solar power plant is expected to supply 1.1 million of Moroccans with 500 MW of power by 2018. Photo: World Bank


Concentrated Solar Power is the greatest energy technology you have probably never heard of.  While it may not be as widely known as other renewable energy sources, there’s no doubting its potential - the International Energy Agency estimates that up to 11 percent of the world’s electricity generation in 2050 could come from CSP.  

And this week in Morocco, the King, His Majesty Mohammed VI, is officially opening the first phase of what will eventually be the largest CSP plant in the world – the same size as Morocco’s capital city Rabat.  I congratulate Morocco for taking a leadership role that has placed it on the frontlines of a revolution that is bringing low-carbon development to emerging and developing economies worldwide.
 
In collaboration with the World Bank and the African Development Bank, the CIF has already provided US$435 million into this three-phase Noor CSP complex in Morocco.

Once Noor I, Noor II and Noor III are up and running, the facility is projected to supply 1.1 million Moroccans with more than 500 megawatts of power by 2018, while reducing carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year. The plant could eventually start exporting energy to the European market. It will increase Morocco’s energy independence, create 200 jobs during the power plan operation and 1,600 jobs during power plant construction, and increase the installed capacity of solar power stations from 22 MW in 2013 to 372 MW in 2018.
 
And those who’ll gain the most will be the Moroccan population, Moroccan businesses, and industries such as transport, agriculture, and many others.  Not only will they benefit from a better electricity supply, they’ll also benefit from cleaner electricity. So what makes CSP different from regular solar power?  Well, CSP uses mirrors 12-meters high to drive steam turbines or engines with energy from the sun to create electricity. So it can provide reliable, large-scale power even when the sun is not shining.
 
However, despite its promise CSP’s current global capacity falls well short of its potential.  High technology costs and a limited number of CSP demonstration projects deter investors, especially in higher-risk emerging markets. So more successful projects like in Morocco can show CSP is a viable investment.
 
In South Africa, in collaboration with IFC, CIF is providing about US$330 million to the country’s first public and private CSP plants, including the KaXu project, the first utility-scale CSP plant to operate in Sub-Saharan Africa. The construction phase has brought over 1,000 jobs to the Northern Cape, an impoverished province in South Africa with a high rate of youth unemployment. The plant is slated to power 80,000 South African households while mitigating around a quarter of a million tons of CO2 emissions per year, which is equivalent to the emissions of close to 53,000 cars a year.

These are just two examples of how concessional funding from the CIF can leverage other sources including from other multilateral development banks such as the World Bank and the IFC and bring down costs of investments in CSP. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), CSP is among the technologies with greatest potential for cost reductions.

The costs of solar tower CSP plants could come down significantly as early as 2020 if deployment accelerates, given the current low level of deployment but high potential of the technology.
 
Finding ways to sustainably meet the world’s energy demands is a global imperative and Morocco is showing how renewable energy can play a key role in helping emerging economies produce electricity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and spur local private investments.  And for CSP, the future may be as bright as the gleaming mirrors in the Moroccan desert.

Elisha Thomas Laizer owns a small stationery store that provides photocopying and printing services in Kitumbeine, a Maasai village 150 km (93 mi) from the Tanzanian city of Arusha.

, but that has not stopped Elisha.

That’s because his store is actually inside a 16 KW mini grid container, under the shade of 60 solar panels. While such easy access to solar power has helped his business tremendously, it has also gifted him with a chance to learn to operate and maintain these mini grids. Consequently, he now acts as a liaison between his community and the solar company that helps set up these grids in remote Tanzanian villages that are starved for electricity.

I, with countries swiftly embracing this clean, renewable source of energy to close their electricity access gaps. A confluence of favorable market forces, including cheaper-than-ever prices and technology, have encouraged the uptake of solar by private investors and countries alike. , according to IRENA. They are projected to fall a further 60 percent in the next decade.
 

Photo: Power Corner


The effect is apparent in Kitumbeine.

, given the last vestiges of the electricity grid and power lines stop miles away. But that changed when Power Corner’s 16 KW solar and diesel hybrid mini-grid started supplying round-the-clock electricity to 50 households with the aim of connecting another 60-70 households subsequently. 

Power Corner, an initiative of the global power company Engie, recently entered the mini grids market in Tanzania. The 16 KW mini-grid in Kitumbeine is their maiden project, and they have plans to build up to 100 additional mini-grids.

Today in Kitumbeine, the sun powers not only households, but several small businesses, grocery stores, a pharmacy, hotel, barber shop, welder, car and bike mechanic shops. It is amazing to see what a difference these past nine months have made for the local economy. People don’t have to drive 40-50 km to buy essential items or rely on expensive diesel generators. In fact, Kitumbeine has experienced only one minute of power outage since its solar mini-grid was set up, compared to rampant blackouts and low voltage issues in other parts of the country.

In Kitumbeine, Power Corner also provides energy efficient appliances to its customers, and have sold 16 refrigerators, 24 TVs and 8 freezers so far. The company believes that involving the local community at every stage of implementation of the mini-grid project is key to its success and emphasizes the need to teach villagers to use energy-smart appliances to use electricity even more responsibly. Power Corner aims to be more than just a service provider, taking on responsibilities such as awareness generation, educating people about efficient use of electricity and appliances, and supporting customers to take up small, commercial activities.
 
Like Power Corner, several other , by supplying energy services to local communities far from the power grid. The best part about these mini-grids is that they can co-exist with the traditional grid and can be easily incorporated as existing infrastructure if the latter is extended in these areas.
 
But not withstanding their benefits, mini-grids still faces myriad challenges in implementation and scaling up due to lack policy and regulatory clarity, standardized technical specifications, capacity building etc. 
 
To address such hurdles, the World Bank and the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) are working through the Global Facility on Mini-grids to create an enabling environment, spur growth in the sector and provide quality energy services to communities. In a two-day workshop at KIITEC  technical institute in Arusha, for example, ESMAP brought together key stakeholders to discuss the technical expertise required in the sector and ways to impart these skills to local operators, electricians, and software developers at local training centers. What’s more, the World Bank’s Climate Action Plan has plans to mobilize $25 billion in private financing for clean energy in developing countries over the next five years.
 
Elisha and his success inspire me to find ways to support the mini-grid sector and replicate models like Kitumbeine where isolated community have leapfrogged from living in darkness to having access to quality energy services and economic opportunities.

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