Friday, December 14, 2012

Final Clarification (Again)

Yeah, in light of the lists of acceptable meters that I posted yesterday (one of which included mine), I AGAIN asked my broker if my meter was sufficient.  Hey, it's on a friggin' list.  I know they're totally annoyed with me, but I feel like there are people relying on me to help clear this up.

They replied that the new meter is "in addition to the electric meter installed by the local utility to measure the home or business' electric consumption."  (that's a quote from the NJ BPU declaration).

They added that "if the meter you are speaking about is your utility net meter, then it is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the NJ BPU mandate."

I dunno', I guess I'm supposed to feel like an idiot, but I just don't.  This shouldn't be so complicated, but I still haven't seen a simple explanation as to what equipment is needed in order to continue to accrue SRECs.  After asking various questions of various people I'm now satisfied that my setup doesn't cut the mustard,
 but it shouldn't have been so difficult to figure that out.

A simple paragraph and maybe a schematic or diagram showing what is needed and where it fits into the existing system would do wonders to clear this up for me and the dozens of blog readers that are e-mailing me.  Part of the problem is that there really isn't an advocate for the small solar producers, somebody who has a stake in getting this message delivered clearly.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lists of Approved Meters

I just noticed that the New Jersey Clean Energy website has a page which includes a link to two lists of electric meters, along with an indication as to whether the meter has been approved for meeting ANSI CR.1-2008 standard of +/- 2% accuracy (as of December 1, only meters which meet this standard can be used to report readings for generation of SRECs).

Here are the two lists on that page.  I'm inferring that the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJ BPU) is saying that if it's approved on one of these lists, it's good enough for them.  It might be worth a few minutes to look.  Maybe your meter is good enough:

New York State Department of Public Service


My meter (General Electric I-210+C, installed by PSE&G on July 25, 2012) is marked as "approved" on the New York list but as "not approved" on the California list.  I just e-mailed my broker about it, because they seem to be the gatekeeper here, but I don't have much hope.  I already annoyed the hell out of them a couple of weeks ago and was finally told that my meter doesn't meet the standard.  I just figured that now that I'd seen a list, I'd ask again and point the list out.

Monday, December 3, 2012

"About Five-Hundred Bucks"

Just for the heck of it, I emailed a local solar installer and asked for a ballpark estimate for installing a revenue grade meter.  He just replied that it would be in the neighborhood of $500.  I'm just assuming that he knew what we were talking about, even though I really don't.  Does that make sense?

So at least we know what we're dealing with.   Another way to express the amount would be "About seven SRECs worth..."

Friday, November 30, 2012

No More SRECs for Me

As of tomorrow, New Jersey will no longer award SRECs based on estimates.  Instead, only numbers from "revenue grade" meters will be accepted.  I'm still not clear on the process.  If I upgraded my meter, would I be the one reading the meter and forwarding the reading?  To whom would I report it?  My broker?  Is that any more reliable than an estimate?

And why isn't my meter good enough to report power generation when it is deemed perfectly fine for reporting and billing me for power consumption?  What's wrong with this picture?

But I did get the word from my broker that my net meter isn't good enough.  With the abysmal rates that SRECs are selling for, I've decided not to invest any money in buying a new meter.  Besides the cost, it would be a bureaucratic clusterF to

    1) Identify a suitable meter.
    2) Explain this mess to an electrician and get a price.
    3) Get any needed approvals.
    4) Hope my broker agrees that it's good enough (they don't seem to have a list of acceptable ones).
    5+) etc.

For those of you who read this blog regularly, you know how these things work.  It takes so much time just to explain questions and issues even before anybody starts trying to resolve them.

I'm disappointed about this.  Loss of SREC income will shove back my payoff date even further into the future (although the plummeting value of the darn things had pretty much already done that).  I feel like I've been shafted by the New Jersey Board of Utilities, who let me install a system and then decided to implement this drastic change.

The various authorities and entities have screwed this up royally.  I'm feeling rather cynical about the whole thing right now.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Now I Must Buy an Expensive New Meter or No More SRECS!

Bad news for me and a lot of solar generators in the Garden State.  Sometimes it's hard not to flip a giant bird at the ruling bodies when these decisions come down.

It seems that the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is going to require that solar generators like me will need to install a revenue grade production meter (RGM) in order to accumulate SRECs.  And nobody will be grandfathered in.  It's conceivable that my current meter meets that requirement, but I just can't imagine that I have that kind of luck.  I've never had it before.

An RGM is defined as a meter that meets the ANSI C12.1-2008 standard of +/-2% accuracy.  More importantly, it will cost six or seven hundred bucks, all of which would come right out of my pocket.  This pretty much sucks.  I consider it a violation of the contract/agreement that I entered into when I signed up for this whole thing.  But what I think isn't going to matter, of course.

I don't know when this goes into effect.  For all I know it could be immediate.

If this were a year or two ago, the decision would be a no-brainer.  In order to generate a dozen SRECs a year, each of which sold for over $600, would it have been worth it to incur a one-time cost of $600?  Duh.

Now, however, it isn't so easy a call.  SRECs aren't worth the electrons they're printed on.  At the current SREC price, it'll take a year of SREC generation just to cover the cost of the new meter (and regular followers of this blog now that I burned several years off the end of my life convincing PSE&G to install the meter I now have had since July).

It's all so stupid.  The state has failed to do what's necessary to preserve the value of SRECs, which have thus dropped through the floor and are practically worthless.  Now they're exponentially jacking up the price of generating them.    

I hate to be one of those people who goes ballistic about government shortsightedness anytime anything doesn't go their way, but if the shoe fits...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Time Lapse, Every US Installation Since 2000

Here's a pretty cool time lapse graphic presentation (day by day) of every photovoltaic solar installation since 2000.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Book!

Time for my occasional deviation.

My new book is out!

Hard Lines

Zero SRECs Sold at October Auction

As usual, neither of my SRECs sold at the October auction.  I'd left the floor price at $200.  I didn't bother to check, but I doubt they could have fetched even $100...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Copped Out and Sold for Eighty Bucks

I copped out and took my broker's offer to sell my SRECs at an astonishingly low price of eighty bucks.  It's almost like throwing money into the street, but I'm not on top of how and when these things expire so I didn't want to get stuck with zero bucks.

Can't wait for the new regs to go into effect...

Friday, September 14, 2012

It's Solar Time!

Well, the power-pigs have been turned off and we're now into the long stretch (about 8 months) where we'll produce more power than we use and have some to sell back to the power company.

The new meter isn't as hard to understand as it looks.  It has a simulated rotary dial indicator on its digital screen, so it's easy to tell at any given moment whether we're importing or exporting.  Not as cool as the spinning metal wheel, but it works.

It also indicates how much power has been imported and how much has been exported since the meter was installed.  As of a few minutes ago we've imported 1603 KWh and exported 1017 KWh since the meter was installed in late July.  That's not too bad, considering it was heavy AC season.  I'll take a guess that it'll take another week (if it stays sunny and reasonably cool) before the exports exceed imports, and it'll probably stay that way forever.

Same Old Same Old -- an O'fer on SRECs Again

I dropped the SREC floor price to $125 for all six of my SRECs and got the same result -- No sales.

Hopefully the pending legislation will solve this for people who've invested in solar and count on decent SREC income to help with payback.  I'm pretty far along and will probably reach system payoff in about sixteen months, but I have a good run at selling these things for six or seven hundred dollars.  Newer owners aren't so lucky.  At this rate there won't be a lot more 'newer owners.'

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Skunked Again on SRECs

Four unsold SRECS at the August auction.  I can't even get $200 for these right now.  I guess I'll drop the floor price and get a little something for them next month.  That's better than nothing...

Friday, July 27, 2012

New Meter Working as Expected

I poked around the internet to try to learn about the net-meter meter (ours is made by General Electric).  It appears that it flashes through a few different displays.  If I read correctly, the number shown when code=100 indicates the amount of power that's been imported.  the number shown when code=101 indicates the amount of power that's been exported.

According to what I read, the blocky arrow thingy indicates whether power is being imported or exported at any given moment (equivalent to looking at the spin direction on the antique one). 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Be a Net-Meter Meter Meeter

Here's the new net meter meter.  At the bottom of the green label are the words -- wait for it -- "NET METER."   Love it...

I don't think I quite understand what the snag was, but I'm pretty sure I'm right that the root of the problem was that the installer didn't file the net meter paperwork properly (if at all).  Then, since PSE&G wasn't fully aware that we (thought we) were net meter customers, they initiated some kind of fraud investigation to figure out why our bills were, in their eyes, artificially low for no apparent reason.  This created some kind of infinite bureaucratic cyclone that wouldn't stop spinning.

To be honest, that's about as far as I want to dig into this.  We worked with some good people at PSE&G over the past few days and I think that now, all is right...

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Meter Has Landed

I'll have more details in a later post, but amazing news about our net metering problems.  They're over.  We got to deal with some extremely cool, helpful [add your superlatives here] people from PSE&G.  Bottom line -- we have a new net meter-capable meter.

How do I know it's net-meter capable?  I love this!  It actually has "Net Meter" stamped on it's face.  And it's green!

Thanks for getting it done, PSE&G...

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Breakthrough?

A breakthrough, perhaps?  The day after informing PSE&G that I was escalating, I received this email:

Dave: Thank you for providing the service address for your request. I have found the DWMS job and we have issued the meter set order # xxxxxxxxxxx to our Inspection Department for review. I have sent an email to our Wiring Inspector for a status update. Thank you.

Maybe this is over.  I hate to be a jerk about things, because I know they're busy as hell up there, but sometimes it's necessary to be the squeaky wheel.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

About to Escalate

I just informed my contact at PSE&G that later today I'll be sending letters to state Senators Fred Madden and Stephen Sweeney to ask for help in ending this fiasco.  Here's what I said:

I'm going to be writing a letter to State Senators Stephen Sweeney and Fred Madden about this. I mean no disrespect on a personal level, but this has been a fiasco that doesn't seem to be coming to any type of conclusion.
I understand that my installer didn't file the proper paperwork in 2009, and that the fact that I was able to net meter anyway was an accident. However, now that this oversight has been discovered earlier this year, I see no sign that PSE&G is doing much to help me resolve it. I've been patiently submitting documents, calling and emailing, and waiting for long enough.
This is costing me money and pushing my system payoff date back further and further. It's also stopping me from exporting green energy back onto the grid. I hope you can understand why I want to escalate this.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How Can I Make PSE&G Do Their Job?

It's been over a month since I submitted the last documentation requested by PSE&G, and there's still no sign of a new meter.

The inability to net meter (which I'd been doing for nearly three years) is costing money and pushing the back the system payoff date.  I'm thinking that I need to find a new way to pressure PSE&G to fix this.  Maybe I can call some of those reporters that cover alternative energy and tell them how the evil power company is preventing me from exporting green energy back onto the grid!

I'll bet the state legislative representatives from this area, especially the ones who have demonstrated an interest by voting for the recent alternative energy bill, would be interested to know about this fiasco.  That's an idea to consider as well.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

[S1925/A2966]: SREC Relief About a Year Away

The NJ house and Senate have passed S1925/A2966, and it looks like the governor is going to sign it.  For some reason I had a hard time deciphering some of the analysis.  In a nutshell, though, I think that prices fetched for SRECs will hover back to the $300-400 range when this stuff starts to go into effect, which will be in 2013.

Here's some helpful explanation from Matt Elliott of Environment New Jersey.

An excerpt from Mr. Elliott's statement:

“This bill ensures the continued success of our state’s solar economy. Because of our remarkable success on solar to date, we are building at a faster rate than ever anticipated. As a result, we’ve seen an oversupply of solar credits on the market, causing the value of those credits to plummet for homeowners and businesses. The bill passed today would accelerate the state’s solar requirements over the next few years, driving up demand for the credits and helping to stabilize the solar market, all while helping to bring twice as much more solar to New Jersey in the very immediate future."

“The recent boom in solar development demonstrates that our state’s potential is much greater than previously anticipated. Moving forward, longer-term state policy must keep up with that potential. We should be increasing the state’s overall clean energy requirements and ensuring more of our clean energy goals are carved out for solar specifically. In the short term, however, this bill will ensure that New Jersey continues to be a solar leader. Without a doubt, today is a good day for solar in New Jersey.”

Friday, July 6, 2012

No Word Yet on Net Metering FUBAR

I emailed in to PSE&G what I hoped to be the final document needed to straighten out my net metering disaster.  So far I've heard nothing and don't have a new meter yet, but I'm still hoping.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

0 for 3 at Latest SREC Auction

I had three SRECs up for sale at the June auction (1 from April 2012, 2 from May 2012).  My floor price was $200 per, and none sold. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

SREC Legislation on the Way in Jersey?

article by Rebecca Forand of The Gloucester County Times (as reported on NJ.COM):

From Rebecca's article:

"Not long ago, solar energy was a booming market in New Jersey, as the state became second only to California in the United States for solar production. Municipalities, schools and private home owners were all jumping on the bandwagon and installing solar panels on their roofs, public property and empty fields.

A significant drop in the price of Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SRECs, currently has the solar industry in a holding pattern. But legislation sponsored by State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Senator Bob Smith (D-Middlesex) aims to give it a boost.

Currently SRECs — which are earned by solar systems and must be purchased by utility companies, making solar arrays a revenue generator for their owners — are selling at $135. Just last year their value was more than $690.

Senate bill S1925 — also called 'the solar rescue bill' —  would require utility companies to purchase more each year than are currently needed by law, increasing the demand and therefore increasing the value of the credits."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Good Convo with PSE&G Today

Instead of looking for the person at PSE&G who never returns my calls or emails, I called a more general number and got somebody who actually seemed to have a feel for what's going on (after opening my file).  The long and short of it is that I'm now convinced that the solution lies with my installer, not the power company.

It was mere luck that the ancient electric meter was capable of net-metering.  Nobody at PSE&G seems be be convinced that it has that capability.  The installers sure knew.  I remember how we gathered around it and watched the dial spin backwards.

At any rate, though, PSE&G sounds like they're pretty close to cutting the order to install the meter I need.  They still need this Part B thingamajig from groSolar, though.  So my next task is to talk with them (they're in Vermont, I'll bet they'll be nice!) and ask them if they ever filed this form, and/or if they happen to have a copy, and/or if they'll do a new one for me.

I expect they'll say "No" "No" and "Yes."  Hopefully somebody will be willing to fill out and sign a new form, which I can then fax to PSE&G and end this nightmare...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

More Unsold SRECS!

I left the floor selling price at $200 for the last auction.  As expected, my lone remaining SREC didn't sell.  I didn't even bother to check the going rate, which I think is much closer to $100.

So much for the Summer 2013 payoff extravaganza that I was planning (not really).

Between the plummeting value of SRECs and PSE&G's sudden refusal to allow me to net meter power back to the grid for credit, the payoff date is moving way, way out...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Do I Need to Sue Somebody! AAAH!!!!!!!!

PSE&G is killing me.  Thanks to my ongoing bureaucratic nightmares I've already lost the lucrative spring period of net metering, which in monetary terms is probably upwards of five hundred to a thousand bucks.  And there's no end in sight.  The last word from the enigmatic entity known as PSE&G was that I need to submit a  "Part 2 (or Part B) of the interconnection application agreement."  No clue as to what the hell that is or where to get one.  The person suggested that I email it, which seems to be a clue that it exists in electronic format, but without a reference to a place to download it, that's rather useless.  I can't get the person on the phone, despite numerous messages left.  Nor can I even get an email returned.

If I can get them to tell me what it is and who has to prepare it, I'll probably then have to go to my installer, groSolar, and ask them to fill it out.  Of course, since the job was completed nearly three years ago, that's going to be another nightmare.  I already sent them a message about it, but just like PSE&G -- no reply.

As I just said in my latest email, the reasonable thing to do would be to "grandfather" in my net metering arrangement, given that they've been enforcing it for nearly three years and billing me accordingly.  They discovered by accident that some form was either not filed by the installer three years ago or maybe just lost.  So what?  Everything works.  Just let it keep working.  If they didn't have what they needed, they never should have started the net metering arrangement in the first place, and they never should have billed me accordingly.

Would it be unreasonable to sue somebody here?  It's not like I want a million bucks because coffee was hot.  I don't want any money at all.  I just want people to do their jobs so I can continue to generate green energy and pay off my system.

I'm dyin' here...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dear Lord, What a Friggin' Nightmare

I thought I was out of the woods after trucking down to the township hall of records and securing a copy of the UCC inspection-passing thingie (mostly because my PSE&G helper told me that's all I needed to solve the problem, have a new meter installed, and resume net metering).

But no.

I just received a new letter from somebody else at PSE&G, telling me the following:

We have received your UCC certification.   However, we need the completed Part 2 (or Part B) of the interconnection application agreement.

I'm really trying.  I tried to politely reply that I don't have any idea what that is, but if they could give me a few hints maybe I could work on it.

What happens if I miraculously find that?  I'm betting that there will be some thing else that I need to submit.  And so on, and so on.

This is so frustrating.  If they didn't have everything they needed back in 2009 (and I'm not implying that this isn't true) they should have asked for it then, when there was a faint hope that I might actually be able to find it, or even know what it is.

Whatever has gone wrong, they are as much at fault as anybody because they have been net metering my account for nearly three years! 

I asked at the bottom of my reply if it might be easier to just pretend that my installation is new, and start the process over.  Because I don't think this is every going to be resolved any other way.

I feel like I'm living in a Dilbert comic strip...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Just Came Across a Cut-rate SREC Deal

I just came across a deal out there in Solar Land.  If a solar energy producer is willing to lock into a contract for the next three energy years at $120 per SREC, somebody might buy them.

Please excuse my flippancy (I made that word up, I think).  Perhaps if I inquired further, I'd learn that in return for the commitment there'd be some guarantee that all SRECS generated would be purchased at this price.  

For me, it's a moot point because I wouldn't make that deal anyway.  This offer -- agreeing to buy SRECS for a very low price (the lowest it's been in years!) -- well, just doesn't appeal to me, to say it as politely as possible.  I don't think I need a long-term contract to sell SRECs at a price like that.  Even if I did, there's not much to lose by not selling them, if that's the going rate. 

I'd rather take my chances that there will be some legislative modifications at some point over the next three years to artificially boost the price (after all, the SREC market is artificial anyway -- customers buy them because they are required to by law).  I don't think changes are imminent, but it seems unwise  to gamble that nothing will change all the way through energy year 2015.  I don't see this as a mutually-beneficial arrangement.

I've already been contacted by some mavericks who are interested in a grass-roots movement to institute a voluntary price floor, in order to drive up the price.  The point the mavericks make is that if we didn't panic and sell them at these fast-dropping prices, we could push the price back up.  Now, I don't understand the market well enough to say whether or not this is possible, but my gut feeling is that we couldn't pull it off.  On the other hand, even though I'm not signing on with said mavericks, I'm also not going to wave the white flag and lock in at the lowest price the market has seen in years.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Progress Toward the Solution

Today I dropped by the construction office in our municipal building, where it took them all of two minutes to provide me with the signed UCC approval letter (it was in a file -- they don't mail them out unless there's a request).

Then I scanned it and emailed it to PD at PSE&G.  I never got around to calling up there to see if it got there, etc.  That'll be for tomorrow...

Friday, May 4, 2012

SRECs: A Buyer's Market

I just accepted an offer from my SREC broker and sold my current SREC holdings (four of them) for $125 each.  The transaction happened instantaneously when I accepted the deal.  I don't blame my broker, the market is what it is, but this made me feel like a sucker, somehow.

The SREC market is definitely the property of the buyers right now...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Holy Moly, Can't give SRECs Away Right Now

I figured I'd clear the decks, and so I dropped my SREC floor price to $200.  None of my 4 sold! 

Between this and my recent net metering troubles, my original system payoff date of July 2013 is becoming fantasy.

OutcomeDescriptionProposed PriceTransacted QuantityTransacted PriceTotal Sale
UnsuccessfulNo Sale: 2011/12, NJ sited, NJ certified SREC (NON39555)$200.000 of 1$0.00$0.00
UnsuccessfulNo Sale: 2011/11, NJ sited, NJ certified SREC (NON39555)$200.000 of 1$0.00$0.00
UnsuccessfulNo Sale: 2012/01, NJ sited, NJ certified SREC (NON39555)$200.000 of 1$0.00$0.00
UnsuccessfulNo Sale: 2012/03, NJ sited, NJ certified SREC (NON39555)$200.000 of 1$0.00$0.00

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

PSE&G is Avoiding Me

I've been trying to get in touch for over a week now with the person who supposedly can help me out with my net metering problem.  To be fair, I've only left two messages over that period (the other times he's been unavailable), but shouldn't one message be enough? 

Tommorrow I'll try the first guy again, and ask him what I should do.

I knew this was going to be a nightmare.

edit: [about an hour has passed]

I take back everything I said!  The guy from PSE&G just called me back and he was extremely cool to talk with!   I almost asked him if he'd be watching the Devils game, since he's in Newark.  He told me exactly what I need to do, which isn't that bad.  I just have to fax him a copy of the certificate of approval for the system, which should have been issued by Washington Township.  Then I'll get my new meter.

I'll have to go to the Township offices and hope they can turn up a copy for me. 


Friday, April 27, 2012

PSE&G May Be right

I've mellowed out a lot in a week. When this started I was 110% sure that PSE&G was wrong and I was right. Back in 2009 we went through so many applications, inspections, rejections, approvals, connections, etc. that I was sure that a final net-metering check had to have been one of them. But a thorough check of my files yielded no evidence of a net-metering approval notification. I found one that said our application for net-metering was approved, but I guess that's not the same thing. So it's definitely not beyond the realm of possibility that I'm completely wrong.

Now, in my book PSE&G isn't completely off the hook. Not only have I been net-metering for 2.5 years, they've been tallying up the KWh in and KWh out (this is the net-metering part) and sending me bills on the difference. So even though I understand that a giant bureaucracy can lose track of a few customers with 48 solar panels here and there, they've tacitly approved the net-metering by sending me these bills. I haven't manage to get in touch with the appropriate net-metering person at PSE&G. I just left a message a few minutes ago. I plan to be my usual pleasant and jolly old self, accommodate the hell out of them, and do what it takes to get that approval and, more importantly, get a new net-metering-capable meter.

This all started when they replaced that "dumb" meter with that "smart" meter (which they didn't even realize they'd done until I told them). I wonder if they realize that the dumb one is better than the smart one?

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...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Maybe the Smart Meter is Okay

The people at PSE&G were pretty good yesterday, and eventually I was able to speak with Sharon, who knew her stuff. I'm still a little confused but I think she's telling me that if I learn more about the new meter I will see that it actually does do everything I want it to do. I took a lot of notes and will look for the information about that meter that she said was on their web site (if I search for "net metering").

The oddest part is that they have no record that my meter was replaced last Thursday. That's unsettling. They even asked ME to read the serial number from the meter and call it in so their records will be right. Who was that guy who did the meter swap? Just some guy off the street?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

This Ain't Gonna be Easy

I just checked out the PSE&G web site looking for a magic portal through which I can easily report this issue (as detailed in my last post about the "smart" meter). There doesn't seem to be an easy way to contact them (what a surprise). I'll probably call the emergency number since they give me no other recourse...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My New "Smart Meter" Seems Dumber Than the Old One

A few days after PSE&G installed a new electric meter on my house there was this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Now, a lot has already been said about privacy concerns and big-brotherism when it comes to the new, smart meters. I won't rehash or even comment, but here's an earlier article about such concerns by the same writer, Andrew Maykuth, who does a great job covering issues important to me.

My concern is more down to earth. I don't think this new meter understands that I'm generating surplus energy and throwing it out onto the grid, and obviously isn't recording that. There doesn't seem to be a digital equivalent to "meter spinning backwards" on this LCD readout. In fact, I suspect that this meter isn't even allowing my surplus power to pass back through at all.

The installer guy made a few remarks about this, but he came and went so quickly that my feeble brain was unable to process it until after he was long gone. He never acknowledged my solar panels at all until I brought it up, which concerned me. Then, he expressed surprise that I had the "old meter" because he didnt' think it was "a solar meter." [I know from experience that the old one kept track of excess power exported back onto the grid, and this was reflected in our bills, so I don't think he was on top of his game here].

He then said that he didn't think the new one is, either. Now, knowing he was wrong about the old one, and imagining that the power company wouldn't leave this capability out of a so-called smart meter (or send him to install a "non-solar meter" at a house where they know there is a solar electric system), I figured he wasn't on top of his game here, either.

However, after watching the meter and the sky for three days, it is apparent to me that this meter isn't as smart as the last one. We've had a ton of sun and haven't used a lot of juice (no AC or pool filter), so we've definitely generated far more than we've used. Yet the number that appears on the LCD reading goes up during dark hours and doesn't go down during extended periods of sunlight. In other words, as far as I can tell, it never turns backwards.

PSE&G has been great to work with so far. They've been very cooperative with my installer and have handled the "net metering" transactions perfectly. I have to admit, though, that I'm not looking forward to working my way through solving this problem. They have a lot of red tape over there...

update: I watched the meter on our sunny Sunday. It's definitely not counting any KWh during periods that we are obviously generating power. That's good. But it's also not "turning backwards" (exporting our surplus onto the grid and crediting us for that). That's bad.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Grid Needs Tweakage to Maximize Renewable Energy

There was an interesting feature on NPR this morning about the need for some adaptations to the power grid. It seems that the unpredictable bursts of renewable energy dumped onto the grid by installations like mine could be handled more efficiently.

So what happens when you add in unpredictable sources of electricity, like wind or solar power?

"The operator does not have control of when to turn it on and off," Moniz says. "It's a new challenge that we just have to meet, and we're not doing it at anything like the pace that I think we need."

That's the conclusion of a study that Moniz's group at MIT is issuing Monday. It's all about how the grid must change to handle the fickle flow of electrons from renewable energy.

Power Grid Must Adapt to Handle Renewable Energy

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Evaluating the Different SREC Brokers

Funny thing about how these blogs work. If I approve a comment, it flies away to whatever original post it was made to, with no way (that I see) for me to subsequently address it.

I just had a question about whether I'm still satisfied with my choice in SREC brokers, which is SRECTrade. The answer is yes. They're very easy to deal with, everything is completely transparent, the interfaces I use to maintain my account are strong, and I'm convinced that I'm getting as much for my SRECs as I would any place else. Occasionally somebody will reply when I mention a selling price to tell me they got more, but I'm guessing it's more a function of my own bid floor/ceiling settings, etc., than anything else. The fees that SRECTrade is charging per transaction seems minimal and these things are publicly traded, so I can't imagine too much variance.

There are some "higher level" (for lack of a better term) brokers out there that use guaranteed prices to lock SREC owners in for set periods of time. Many installers try to push these on new solar installation owners, most likely because they're getting a commission. At first I scoffed at these because when I was starting out, SRECs were going for a lot more money than these "lock/guarantee" people were offering. Now that SREC prices have dropped, maybe it wasn't such a bad deal after all.

But in sum, I'm happy with my broker and have no plans to change in the near future...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cleared Out my Backlog of SRECs

Well, I sold 4 SRECs in the latest auction after slashing the minimum price. $245 each.

This morning on NPR I heard a story about how SRECs were going for about $20 each (I haven't confirmed that number, maybe I misheard). Yikes!

Now that I've cleared out a backlog I'm thinking of bumping minimum price back up for a bit...