It is not uncommon to see solar panels being installed on a San Diego rooftop. San Diego County is one of the top regions in the country for solar-powered homes, but changes coming to San Diego Gas and Electric may alter the way customers are billed for their power usage.
"Potentially it could negatively impact solar customers," said Edward Lopez with the Consumers' Action Network or UCAN.
Under the billing change called Time of Use (TOU), SDG&E customers are charged less during the day and more during the peak hours between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. That means prices go up when solar customers are not able to generate electricity.
Traditionally customers were billed on a tiered system, charge for how much energy they used not when they used it.
Lopez says that means solar customers are going to be generating electricity during off-peak hours and compensated at a lower rate than before. With "Net Metering" solar customers were able to get credit for excess electricity and use it when relying on SDG&E power.
Under Time of Use, Solar Customers will now be generating electricity at a lower rate and not get credited at the same rate later in the day. Could this change discourage people from going solar?
"I think that will be up to the individual customer," said Wes Jones with San Diego Gas and Electric.
On March First SDG&E started switching customers to Time of Use, that will continue over the next 12 months or so. Solar and other customers can opt-out of the change and stay with the tiered billing system.
Tara Hammond with Sullivan Solar Power says customers need to pay attention, "If SDG&E defaults you and you are on the wrong rate, whether you have solar or not, you could end up paying more for the electricity."
Some solar customers are adding battery storage to counter the Time of Use billing.
"So when SDG&E wants to charge you twice as much your battery is actually putting power out and you are able to avoid the high cost of electricity," said Hammond.
But batteries are expensive, selling for as much as $7,000 without rebates. That's why Hammond says many customers are only buying enough to beat the jump in the higher late afternoon and evening rates.
Hammond says anyone who has installed solar over the past two years is already on Time of Use. Solar Customers who go further back have their choice of staying with the Tiered Billing System or go to TOU.
To read more about the change here are three resources: