Home electrification will raise electric bills and create a serious financial burden unless rooftop solar and energy efficiency are part of the electrification package, California Energy Commission staff and non-profit finance experts said during a July 12 CEC workshop.
Installing solar is necessary even where the retrofit includes energy efficiency measures, recent research has found. Switching gas space and water heating to electricity drives up electricity use, increasing already high rates. That in turn exacerbates the difficulties of financially strapped residences. Adding solar then, is key.
Studying the housing stock in Berkeley with the aim of electrifying the many old residences in the city revealed that weatherizing a home without including solar panels saved little energy, according to Ryan Gardner, of Rincon Consultants. “Solar is a huge help,” he said. But he wonders how long savings will last with solar rooftops that fuel both the home and grid. Payments to photovoltaic owners are expected to drop in the California Public Utilities Commission’s upcoming Net Energy Metering 3.0 decision.
Andy Brooks, senior director for the non-profit Association for Energy Affordability, said that solar panels must be installed first on apartments and dwellings being retrofitted, before energy efficiency work, to avoid spiking utility bills. He said not following that order can cause electricity consumption to increase “more than anticipated.” The electrification retrofits that his company studied “resulted in significant greenhouse gas reductions” but not always utility cost savings.
The optimal times to retrofit existing dwellings is at the time of resale or renovation, with benchmarking important to track resulting electric bill and energy savings impacts over time, speakers noted during the Monday workshop.
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Almost a year after it was approved, Southern California Edison’s program to install 38,000 light duty EV chargers over the next five years launched this week. Last August, California regulators unanimously approved the largest utility electric car charging infrastructure program in the country.
Under SCE’s $436 million Charge Ready program, it will install and maintain supporting EV charging infrastructure while SCE commercial and industrial customers will generally own, operate and maintain the actual chargers.
“Beginning today, businesses, government agencies and other organizations in the Southland will be able to sign up to participate in Southern California Edison’s Charge Ready program,” spokesperson Paul Griffo stated July 12.
Under the utility program, 50% of the chargers are supposed to be installed in disadvantaged or economically-impacted communities that are disproportionately burdened by air pollution. Apartments are expected to see 35% of them. The rest will be installed at workplaces and other common destinations.
The new SCE program builds off an earlier one that ended in May in which the utility partnered with businesses, local governments, and other organizations to support about 2,700 charge ports at nearly 150 sites. The first site was in the city of Linwood where six chargers were installed four years ago for the city’s fleet, and eight more were installed in the civic center public parking lot.