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SolarCity / Tesla roof in SCE territory: Outrageous annual "true up" bill

SolarCity / Tesla roof in SCE territory: Outrageous annual "true up" bill

We got our 13 panels installed by Solar City in 2013. We live in the Los Angeles area. At the time our electricity bill was pretty low ($70/month) but we wanted clean energy. We got enough panels to cover all our energy needs plus one electric car. Our SC/Tesla agreement is a Power Purchase agreement over 20 years. We ended up having to pay about $90 a month. This seemed high especially since our kids had moved out to college by that point and we don't have AC or a pool but, it was clean energy. Our monthly from SCE was about $5, for connection to the grid.

This past month, after having sold the house, we received a "catch up" bill from SCE for $512. After calling them to ask about it, I was told that it was for all the extra energy we used over the last 11 month. Uhhhh, say what??? There were fewer people in the house than before and this would amount to $90 to Tesla PLUS $50 to SCE meaning an average of $140 a month compared to $70 before we had the panels. It almost feels like SCE is not giving any credit for the panels covering most of our energy.

The problem is that Tesla says "That's for your electricity" and SCE says "That's for your electricity" and I'm stuck in the middle with no apparent way to contest this as both are hiding behind their numbers. I feel like I am being double billed. I have called SCE numerous times but once you get transferred to a supervisor, you are being put on hold for more than 20 or 30 minutes and I need to get back to work.

What kind of recourse do we have available in this case since I don't really have the ability to say "Here is exactly how much we used, here is how much our panels produced and therefore, you, Mr SCE have no right to charge us this outrageous amount".

Thank you for any help.

PatientFool | 13 septembre 2018

do you have any visibility (e.g. monthly) as to what your production and consumption numbers were?

this probably isn't helpful but in my case even with 23 panels i had a $200 annual "true up" bill this year (meaning i used more electricity then i produced). i have a lot more panels then you but i also have a modern house with hvac and a tesla model s that i drive 90 miles weekdays. i've noticed from my production/consumption numbers that in the summer i tend to overproduce electricity but in the winter the opposite occurs. i tend to use more then i produce even though those aren't the HVAC months. the production drops a lot in the winter..

given you mentioned an electric car and only have 13 panels, i'm not entirely surprised that you also owed. but without real numbers it's hard to comment on. in my case i have PG&E in northern california.

bstruye | 13 septembre 2018

Thank you for that reply. I will have to dig to find those production numbers... I'm using one of those compliance Honda Fit-EVs with a small 85 mile range as a DD. Our solar system was spec'd to take that in consideration which is why our Tesla bill is about $95/month, about $25 more than previously. That makes sense. What doesn't make sense is that Edison wants to add $500+ on top of that for 11 months. I am trying to to find ammo to fight them for it but they are hiding behind the "That's what our system tells us" iron curtain.

PatientFool | 14 septembre 2018

a lot of the math is fuzzy here too. different rates for different hours (peak, offpeak, EV hours). The electric company only provides monthly and annual consumption numbers and the production numbers are difficult to parse. Their bilsl are fairly obfuscated. Thankfully i have both consumption and production monitoring so i can see down to hourly what is going on. All in all, in my case on an annual basis i am consuming more then i am producing. I notice this occurs primarily in the winter and primarily because of the EV. From November to January i only produce 540-600kWh a month whereas in the summer peak months it jumps up to 1500kWh. Almost 1/3 the production here in northern California. Shorter days, cloud cover and rain hurt a lot.

But ya if your system was truly designed to accommodate your usage one would think you wouldn't have a true up bill or it'd be minimal. But 13 panels + driving 85 mi daily on an EV strikes me as being not enough compared to what i have. My 90mi commute in my S is literally 1/2+ of my consumption on days that i charge it.

acegreat1 | 14 septembre 2018

Ppa's suck, you are at their beckon call

bstruye | 15 septembre 2018

Thank you PaientFool.

@acegreat1, could you clarify what you mean by "Ppa's suck, you are at their beckon call"? We have moved into a new house and I want to get a new system on the roof. But, based on this experience, I am a little gun shy about it. Apart from buying the panels outright, what other arrangement would you recommend that would avoid this sort of pitfall?

Thank you.

jefjes | 17 septembre 2018

I'm under a PPA with Tesla which was SolarCity when I got it back in 2015. The PPA business model does suck for some but many of us wouldn't even have solar if we had to buy the system up front back then. Every month when I pay my bill for my solar produced energy, I see it as that much of my energy use went to renewables and anything I produce over what I needed, helped to offset any dirty sources that feed into the grid. My contract says I can buy my system outright after a 5 years period at fair market value but I'm not sure how that works and if it would be worth it to me since the tax credits were kept by SolarCity when they installed the system new in 2015. Since getting my 21 panel 5.46 kw system, I've purchased 2 electric cars (Leaf and Model 3) so I'm sure my energy needs have changed since the original evaluation SolarCity did using 1 year of the then current energy bills. I've lately been considering getting a Powerwall 2 but that would require negotiating a new contract with Tesla so that is yet to be determined also.