We know the Coachella Valley has some of the highest summer electric bills in the state, a fact of life in the region that ratepayers — particularly Southern California Edison customers – tend to carp about more than celebrate.
But now we have the opportunity to turn those blistering bills into bragging rights — SunRun, a solar leasing firm based in San Francisco, is running a Battle of the Bills to find the highest home electric bill in California. The grand prize winner gets a free 20-year solar lease with the company. Runners-up can win $1,000 or $500 discounts off a lease.
The catch here is that the contest is based on bills for this past, unseasonably cool June, which did not break any local records on the electric bill front.
Still, consider the competition — Pacific Gas & Electric territory up north, San Diego Gas & Electric, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Pasadena Water and Power, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. We still should be able to kick some serious butt — bill-wise.
The contest is open to homeowners only — sorry apartment dwellers — and of course, you’ll have to show them the bill. The deadline to submit your bill online is 11:59 p.m. Aug. 12.
Obviously, this a smart marketing move by SunRun, one of a growing army of solar leasing companies that has been capturing an increasingly large slice of the residential solar market. The value proposition here is that customers can get a solar system installed on their homes for almost nothing upfront. The leasing company owns and maintains the system and the customer gets the power at long-term low rates.
Figures from the California Public Utilities Commission show that as of July 20, 34 percent of all new solar installations applying for the state rebates were third-party owned, which means either a lease or power purchase agreement. In Edison territory, the third-party installations are running even higher — 46 percent.
Those figures at least partially explain why state rebate rates are falling faster than expected. Rebates on leased systems in general go to the leasing companies, such as SunRun, so more leases mean less money for rebates for homeowners who buy their own systems.
The solar rebate for Edison customers now is $1.10 per watt, down from $1.55.
These are just a few of the figures I’ve gathered so far for an article for this weekend on how leasing and falling rebates are affecting the valley’s solar market and installers. I’m also interested in talking with residents about their decisions to go solar, either buying or leasing a system.
In the meantime, it’s triple-digits and muggy out there, and we’ve got piles of electrons zipping around the valley, keeping our air conditioners running and our bills high.
So come on, Coachella Valley – we can do this! Get out those June bills and show the rest of the state what it really means to sweat out a summer.