Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Affordable solar electricity

I was given some information about a website called “solar over Louisville” from someone.  I can’t remember who gave it to me or where.  It must have been something I picked up at the state fair.

I looked at the website and saw that there was to be a solar seminar at a library near where I used to live.  I’ve wanted solar for as long as I can remember but its always been too expensive for my budget. The people who need solar the most are those who can least afford to buy the equipment and have it installed.  That means people like me.  This seminar information said someone would explain how solar can be affordable for everyone.  Now really, who doesn’t want to go solar and off grid these days?  So I went to the seminar.

I could be wrong but this is what I understand about the meetings.  The seminar is provided by companies who install solar.  Each participating company has someone who will run the seminar and answer questions on a rotating basis.  It made sense for the sellers to gather people with questions in one place rather than repeating the same answers to the same questions over and over to individuals at their homes.  More people asking questions means more information for the participants.

What I found out is that solar is STILL too expensive for those with low income.  The people who could benefit most are still the ones who can’t afford it.  Isn’t that the case for all things in the income gap?  How many low income folks are going to have a spare twenty or thirty thousand dollars just laying around waiting to be spent?  How many seniors on SS will be able to use a tax credit incentive?  It truly does take money to save money.

I had really hoped that a program similar to this one SASH California or this one Gridsolar or this one that I believe describes the program in several states Community Power Network was about to get started in the Kentucky area.  Kentucky ranks last among all states when it comes to using solar power.  Apparently it will stay in last place for awhile longer.

I got my LG&E bill today and inside was information about their request before the public service commission (PSC) to build a solar facility that customers could purchase a rented share of the electricity generated.  It must be approved by the PSC first and then construction etc but I signed up for more information about the program as it becomes available.

From what I understand, and I could be wrong, is that if I rent some space on the solar panels I’d get the benefit of what was generated as a reduction on my electricity bill.  My main concern would be if the rental cost is more than the benefit of electricity generated and how long I would be locked into a contract.

So I read the submitted proposal as best I could understand it. You can read what I read by going to LG&E solar share proposal.   Those proposal things are never written in plain language.  I saw that a contract is for 5 years with a $40 non-refundable subscription fee per quarter kW subscribed.  What the heck does that mean?  There is also a monthly cost of $6.29 per quarter kW subscribed.

Ok, now how does that relate to a low income person?  Specifically me.  Well, the way I read it is that for an $80 fee and $12.58 per month on a minimum 5 year contract I could get 500 kW of solar per month.  I looked at my bill and saw I used 563 kw last month.  It cost me $63.28 but $13.43 of that was fees and taxes.  In other words if I had used zero electricity it would still have cost me the $13.43 just to be connected to the grid.  In comparison my gas usage last month was zero.  It cost me $18.89 in fees despite the zero usage.

energy-diet-2016-042

What I’m seeing is that I could potentially have my actual electricity costs reduced from $49.85 to $12.58 plus a bit for non-solar use.  If I’m right.  Yes, that would be a significant savings.  I still question my interpretation of the solar rental proposal.  Many other factors will change my electric usage this winter.  I have yet to see how energy efficient my furnace is during cold months.  I don’t believe its going to be energy efficient at all because its an older model.  I have an electric water heater which doesn’t look energy efficient either.

What this all means to me is that I STILL fall between the cracks when it comes to using solar to reduce my bill.  I could be wrong and I’m keeping an open mind about it.  I’ve never seen a for profit utility company do anything to actually benefit the customer more than themselves.  They are going to get their profit somehow so there is always going to be a “catch” to anything they offer.

The best I can hope for is that the free solar for low income people is started in this area.  Not likely though.  In the mean time I’ll continue doing all that I can to reduce my energy use.

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8 comments on “Affordable solar electricity

  1. Margie in Toronto
    September 18, 2016

    There has been quite the uproar here in Ontario about our ever increasing hydro-electric costs – mainly due to the fact that our Provincial Govt. is selling off the publicly owned facility to private ownership, plus charging us to do so! We are billed every two months and I can compare my usage over this summer to two years ago when it was just as hot & I used the A/C in a similar manner – my bill has gone from $140.00 to $206.00 for July & August! The Govt. has lost the last couple of bi-elections and public protests over the increases are said to be the main reason – causing them to promise to remove the Provincial part of the tax on these bills starting in January – no one believes it will make much difference as other costs go into effect at the same time! A lot of people are very interested in solar & the use of wind power is also increasing – however, as you state – it costs a lot to switch over so only available to a few.
    Be very careful about signing up for anything until you are really sure that it will save you money instead of costing you more!

    • Anita
      September 19, 2016

      How true! I’m more cautious these days than I’ve ever been in my life. I guess that the cost of utilities is a concern all over the world except in places that don’t have them. The world is about money for the haves on the backs of the have nots. I can only hope, like everybody else, that the cost of switching eventually trickles down to those of us at the bottom.

  2. Brian
    September 17, 2016

    Anita, thanks for the report. I looked at this for myself and found that it is not practical for me. Even cutting back and using less energy is becoming more difficult. My last monthly utility bill was $59.07. The cost of the actual electric and gas was $10.33 the rest was for taxes, connection fees and delivery charges!!! Keep up the good work, I really enjoy your thought provoking posts!

    • Anita
      September 17, 2016

      Brian, where do you live? What was the amount of kw you actually used? I agree, it is very difficult cutting back and using less to save money when the utility companies keep getting rate hikes and higher delivery charges. Every penny I save seems to mean two pennies in added fees.

  3. Randal Oulton
    September 17, 2016

    “It truly does take money to save money.”

    As a Jewish friend once summed it up for me, “Them that’s got, get.”

    • Anita
      September 17, 2016

      I like that saying. I’m going to remember it. Thanks.

  4. boblosan
    September 17, 2016

    So it would cost you the $80 fee, and then it would cost $12.58 plus $13.43 per month. Plus the $6.29 “per quarter kW subscribed” per month? Plus you would also pay $40 every 3 months and I’m not sure if that means x 500 kW. I sure hope not!!
    It seems to me you would be paying more money for solar than you are for electricity!
    I have the same darned problem. I’ve wanted solar since the 80s, and I still can’t afford it. My dear mom left me some money when she passed on, but not enough to buy solar outright. I know here in CT, they have a rental program, where they will lock you into a payment per month and the company gets all of the overage power you generate. I won’t do that either because I’m not giving them one more penny than I have to. God bless you and let’s pray that both of us can get solar one day without going farther in the hole.

    • Anita
      September 17, 2016

      This is the same type program as you described in your area. Its a rental type program but instead of the solar being on your house its located in the next county over on a solar farm. I guess you’ve seen photos of wind farms? Well a solar farm is the same type thing only on the ground instead of up in the air.

      I’m like you, I don’t want to give the utility company anymore money than I have to. Whether you like Obama or not he is the one who helped bring solar panels down in cost with tax credits to solar companies for making improvements. Too bad the cost couldn’t have been much lower so it would be affordable to the low income people.

      The poor keep getting poorer and the rich keep getting richer off the backs of the poor.

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