Sunday, April 22, 2012

After Three Years New Jersey Thinks I'm an Unauthorized Net Meterer

This meter thing is turning into a huge fiasco. It's Sunday now and I'm feeling calmer. I'm a laid back guy, but I was pretty hot on Friday.

Unfortunately, and this is feeding into my frustration, this part of the year is prime time for net metering. There's a lot of sun and we're not consuming a lot of power, so ordinarily we net-meter a lot of power onto the grid.

I'm not going to let this turn into "I'm authorized!" "No you're not!" "Am!" "Not!"

Right now I feel so much calmer about it. I don't want to fight the state over this, life's too short for that. My plan is to take the high road and ask the state what I need to do in order to get a net metering-capable meter installed, and to resume my net metering arrangement.

This is going to push my system payoff date further into the future. How much is impossible to say.

Here's a recap of Friday's events, as told in a series of posts on InsideMdSports, a message board I hang out on sometimes. It all starts Friday morning.

Cast of characters:

ME: Me
PSE&G MAN: A man at PSE&G who refers to himself as a "net metering billing person."
PSE&G WOMAN: A woman at PSE&G who I talked with on Wednesday. Very knowledgable
about how net metering works.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

I just read an email and I'm really upset and angry right now. It seems as though New Jersey now thinks I installed panels myself and am trying to rig up some [bleeping] system without authorization, approvals, etc.

It all started with my phone call to PSE&G on Wednesday, asking if I my new meter was capable of net-metering (sending excess power I generate back onto the grid and crediting me for it). I thought that went well. Yesterday [Thursday] I received this e-mail, which still makes it seem as though we're okay (this email is hard to follow. It's written almost as though it was being sent to somebody else, and then was converted at the last minute to be an email to me]:

----- start of email ---------------------
Good morning,
Yesterday, [ME] called, questioning how to read his new Net Meter. My co-worker, PSE&G WOMAN], explained how to read the meter but also inquired what the Meter number was because we are showing no such meter change on your account on our system. [ME] said he would call back with the meter number but he has yet to do that. We need this number to bill you correctly in the future. I tried calling the phone number that was on your account but that was out of service. Please give us a call at [xxx yyy-zzzz]. Thank you.
Net Metering Billing Dept
------ end of email -----------------------

So yesterday, I figured that since they didn't quite believe that they'd installed a new meter, I'd send them a photograph of it. Here's my email to them:

------ start of email ---------------------
Hi [Mr. PSE&G MAN],
I apologize for not calling back earlier. It's on my list but I've been busy today.
As I told [PSE&G WOMAN], somebody came by and replaced our meter last Thursday. He told me that the old one had been broken since September. I didn't realize this. Our bills are very low during that time period anyway because we generate more electricity with the solar panels than we use (so the bills must not have looked any different than usual).
The number on the upper part of the meter is: 05 55547309
The number on the lower part of the meter is: 000127083248H
I'd also like to learn how to read this meter. If you could point me to a resource I would really appreciate it. [PSE&G WOMAN] told me that this meter is capable of net metering, and is recording the amount of energy we export to the grid (and will credit us accordingly). Is that correct? I hope so. We definitely wouldn't have installed the solar panels if we thought the net-metering arrangement could be terminated at any time.
Please let me know if you need any new information from me, I'd be glad to help.
By the way, our phone number here is [(zzz) xxx-xxxx]. I'm not sure what that 609 area code phone number on our account is. Maybe it belongs to the solar installer?
Thanks so much,
------- end of email -------------

What I was hoping for was an email or phone call telling that everything was okay, the new meter does what you need it to do, thanks for sending us the information that our installer didn't record. Instead I got this (early Friday morning), which I'm rather upset about:

-------- start of email ----------------
[ME, I need you to call me at (zzz) xxx-yyyy. I will try calling you after 9:00 but if you see this first, please call. You need to turn off your Panels for now. That meter is NOT a Bi-directional meter & will not credit any excess you may send to the grid. There is a process to becoming a Net Metering Customer & it seems that something went wrong along the way. Please call.
---------- end of email -------------

Maybe I'm being oversensitive, but this e-mail, uh, angered me. It sounds like I'm being accused of unauthorized net-metering, a capital offense.
Here's how I replied. I don't really have a meeting, but I wanted to tell him that we did jump through all the hoops THREE YEARS AGO and let that sink in before we talk.

-------- start of email -----------------
I've been a net metering customer since 2009. Since then we've been credited for excess we send to the grid and earning SRECS since then.
I have a meeting to attend at 9:30 but I'll try to call after that.
------- end of email --------------------

The phone with [PSE&G MAN] call didn't go well at all. I'm pretty mild-mannered but I wasn't this time. He's telling me to cold-call another PSE&G guy to get a proper meter (which I'll do, of course). But I asked him why HE doesn't make the call, it'll be a lot more effective coming from him. When I call I'll have to start from square 1 again, and convince him that I'm legit.

I just have a feeling that whatever they need from me, I'm not going to have. Yet I've been net-metering for three years, it's obvious in the bills PSE&G themselves has been sending, I'm earning and selling SRECs, I have inspection certs, etc.

As an aside, I wish in retrospect I wish I'd checked up more closely on who that guy was who swapped on the new meter. I should have asked for ID, a work order, or something. I dropped the ball there, I guess. He came and left in about 5 minutes, believe it or not. The swap is basically unplugging that glass part and plugging in a new one.

But PSE&G isn't disputing that a new meter was installed, though they have no record of having done so. What they seem to be claiming is that they never heard about my panels and I have no authorization to do net-metering. I suppose that if I had called with some innocent question that had nothing to do with any work order or equipment swap, the same red flag would have gone up...

Here's a picture of the meter that started it all...

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