Summer’s Effect on a Household’s Electricity Bill

Across the country, summer can bring sun, fun, vacations, and…higher electricity bills.

To combat the heat and humidity of summer, households across the country crank up the A/C, increasing the load an average home pulls from the power grid. But even beyond the extra electricity homes use by turning the knob on the air conditioner all the way up, summer brings other changes to energy use. Kids from kindergarten to college come home and use more electronics (and A/C!) during the long summer days. And all of this extra use is on top of what’s already needed to keep the refrigerator running, Netflix streaming, and lights on!

Greater residential electricity consumption drives a higher demand for electricity across the country. This ultimately means power plants need more fuel to generate electricity, which leads to higher fuel prices, particularly when supply is constrained. Moreover, the greater overall demand for electricity means power companies face higher pressure to make sure the grid is performing well so that electrons are reliably flowing to homes.

These higher costs tend to be passed from electricity providers to customers. The U.S. Department of Energy reported that average residential customers faced energy costs that were 0.74 cents/kWh more from May to September than from October to April in 2013 and 2014, more than a 6% increase. Those numbers are a national average and therefore do not easily capture potentially more dramatic regional variation.

Genability’s rate database reflects this seasonal differential too. Of the active, default residential tariffs in the database, 100 of them across 56 utilities distinguish rates by season. Using Genability’s data and calculator/API, we can look at a hypothetical residential customer in Phoenix, AZ, who gets electricity from Arizona Public Service. If this household uses 1,000 kWh of electricity for the first month of last winter (12/21/2014 – 1/21/2015) and the first month of this summer (6/21/2015-7/21/2015), they’ll pay $33.45 (almost 30%) more on the summer bill. And that’s assuming the same amount of electricity is used in both months! If the household uses even just 10% more energy in the summer to combat the >100 degree temperatures, they’ll have paid $51.14 (42.5%) more on the summer bill!

But all hope is not lost! A household can save money by changing some habits and hardware. Making sure that the A/C is on only when needed, which a programmable thermostat can automate, helps limit the load required by running the A/C all day, every day. Avoiding things that heat a home can reduce the need for fans and A/C too. This can be done by limiting the number of hot meals cooked (which raises the temperature of a kitchen) and making sure doors and windows are properly sealed (to keep the cool air in and hot air out), for example. More tips on reducing summer electricity use are here, and see Genability’s tools for info on some utilities’ rate plans and rebates that are intended to reduce summer bills.

Altogether, the average residential customer faces higher electricity bills in the summer, regardless of whether someone turns up the A/C or not. When factoring in the greater need for electricity many homes face in the summer, customers can quickly feel the squeeze of much higher electricity bills — but a number of changes primarily to habits and hardware can be made to limit this squeeze.

Learn more about Genability’s data and products at http://genability.com and http://developer.genability.com.

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California Rate Reform, the Utility Death Spiral and the Duck Curve

What did the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) recently decide, and what does that suggest about the longer term California energy prices and their impact on the rapidly growing solar market?

On July 3rd, the CPUC voted for approval on the awaited changes to CA’s residential electricity rate structures.  Rather than immediately impacting electricity prices like a general rate case, these are guidelines for the design of new rates that will implemented over the next 2-4 years.  Let’s first highlight the main changes in the decision, and then take a look at what this hints toward for the solar deployment in CA over the longer term.

 

1. Net Metering

The decision does not involve changes to CA’s retail rate net metering policy, which is the #1 driver of solar growth in CA.  It is highly likely that this policy will change in the coming years, although no one can predict what it will look like at this time.  Nearly every PUC in the country is reviewing various proposals, and we are likely to see a variety of approaches tested out before a new standard arises in a heavily solarized world.  Rest assured that few energy policy decisions will be a closely reviewed, or as hotly contested, as changes to net metering policies.  Either way, the next few years will be some of the most interesting in CA’s energy history.

Impact: None at this time.

 

2. Fixed Charges vs. Minimum Bill

The CPUC denied the request by the CA Investor Owned Utilities to enact a $10 a month fixed charge on all customers.  Instead, they allowed for a minimum bill charge of up to $10 a month.  This has a lesser impact on solar economics, which was welcomed by solar advocates, however the door has been left open for fixed charges in future rates cases.

Impact: Minimal impact on solar economics, but could change in the future.

 

3.Tier Flattening

The biggest news is the reduction of the CA 4 Tier residential tariff structure to 2 tiers and a super-user charge for the heaviest consuming households.  This will have an immediate impact on solar economics in CA by reducing the charges on the heaviest users in the state.  For an in depth analysis of the reasoning behind this change, and possible impacts on solar, check out:

Inside California’s Rate Restructuring Plan

California Reaches Compromise on Utility Residential Rate Reform

Impact: Reduces solar savings for the heaviest energy users.

 

4.Time of Use Rates

The CA IOUs will be required to begin designing and testing TOU rates for residential customers, with all customers moving to default TOU rates by 2019.  This has the largest long-term implications, as TOU rates can facilitate a whole host of technologies like solar, storage, EVs, and smart homes.

Impact: Long-term change in pricing incentives for all kinds of technology.

 

5. The Utility Death Spiral and the Duck Curve

The implementation of a minimum bill instead of a monthly fixed charge should help to combat the Utility Death Spiral, the feedback loop where grid-wide fixed costs divided by a shrinking pool of customers drives up rates, causing more customers to go solar.  While commonly mentioned in the industry as the greatest threat to the incumbent utilities, pairing these charges with the shift to TOU rates should have a balancing effect.

As TOU rates come into effect and solar makes up an increasing percentage of the CA energy mix, over the long term we will see TOU Peak periods begin to shift away from midday when solar is plentiful, to early evening right when the duck curve peaks.  Without wide scale storage integration, we are likely to see a large decline in daytime power rates, which will rapidly eat into solar ROI.  The CPUC’s decision to pair a minimum bill with TOU rates may help to stabilize prices in the future, preventing a massive shift in either direction.

Bottom Line: The Utility Death Spiral and the Duck Curve may work to counteract each other in the long-term.

 

Stay Up to Date on Rapidly Changing Rates

Follow Genability to hear about the immediate changes and long-term trends impacting the solar and storage industries across the US and beyond.

 

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Genability Continues to Grow!

Genability is getting bigger all the time. We’ve rounded out our team with even more new people and we are very happy to have them onboard.

CVP_Genability_Tarpan_Dixit_I1C1232Tarpan Dixit
Role at Genability: Product Marketing, Partnerships
I’ve lived in: Houston, Austin, Sunnyvale, Munich, and San Francisco
Outside of work, I like to: Travel, read, support my favorite sports teams, attend concerts, and enjoy a cold beer.
I work in cleantech because: It’s at the intersection of finance, technology, and conservation. This rapidly growing sector allows us the rare opportunity to make a difference                                     and a profit.

 

CVP_Genability_Jenny_Trinh_I1C1242_sharpJenny Trinh
Role at Genability: Tariff Data Entry Specialist
I’ve lived in: San Francisco, Davis, and Sacramento
Outside of work, I like to: Try new restaurants, exercise, and travel.
I work in cleantech because: It’s useful information that I can apply to my everyday life to save on energy and costs.

 

CVP_Genability_Trevor_Kennard_I1C1252Trevor Kennard
Role at Genability: Tariff Data Entry Specialist
I’ve lived in: Hong Kong, Emeryville, Berkeley, San Ramon and Oakland
Outside of work, I like to: Go to as many concerts and festivals as possible, bicycle around Oakland, sample local food and craft brews, and see the Sharks and Giants win!
I work in cleantech because: We’re on this amazing planet for a sliver of time, might as well help preserve it for all to                                     enjoy :)

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OpenSavings is Here

How popular is solar PV in your area and how much are people saving? How much does solar cost? What if you live in a San Francisco apartment or a mobile home in Sonoma, versus a typical home in LA?

 

Save by Genability is a new initiative that sheds light on key questions homeowners have when considering solar. Underlying the Save website is OpenSavings, an open source API created by Genability to help the solar industry quickly figure out location specific metrics that drive solar adoption: electricity costs, solar costs, system production and how popular solar is in the area. Simply input a zip code and get location and building specific cost savings data in an accurate and easy to use format. This data can be useful in several ways, including to baseline electricity costs, identify new solar markets, or to better target solar lead generation.

SF City Rank

OpenSavings ranks cities based on their potential aggregate solar savings, which takes into account each city’s specific building mix and the percentage of the total stock occupied by owners. To do this, Genability combined utility rate and typical usage data, with PVWattsOpenPVCensus, and other data sets analyzed, to run and combine many cost savings scenarios.

 

SF - SFDH

Savings are broken down within a city based on building type and usage scenario. Since most homeowners are unfamiliar with their usage, or energy consumption, Genability provides cost savings results for typical homes (attached or detached home, apartment in a small or large building, and mobile home), with low, high and average usage scenarios. Keep in mind that OpenSavings results are not site specific but represent average cases. In the future, we plan to evaluate many more scenarios (e.g., different system designs and tariff switches) to provide richer and more granular data.

OpenSavings data is currently available for CA but we plan to expand coverage nationally over the coming months, with priority on the top 25 solar states. Sign up at Save by Genability if you’d like us to keep you posted on our progress.

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Genability Switch the Market Standard for Residential Solar

We’ve been busy the last few months with product upgrades, growing the team, as well as adding several new residential solar Switch customers.  Genability now works with 7 of the top 10 residential solar providers in the US.

sunrun-logo

Genability assisted Sunrun with the rollout of their BrightPath station.  These kiosks are located throughout various big box retailers in California and New York and allow prospective solar customers to receive an estimate of potential savings based on their homes’ zip, building type, shade and size.  Sunrun is also using Switch APIs in their BrightPath installer quote tool for potential customers in the 12 states they operate in.

sp_2014_logo_black_orange_cmyk-30SunPower’s residential quote tool, SunPower Spectrum, uses the Genability Switch APIs for their installer partner and dealer network quote tool.  Spectrum has rolled been rolled out to dealers in California and Hawaii.

DS-Logo_White-Background-high-resDividend Solar, which offers a “solar-ownership-as-a-service” loan, has integrated the Switch APIs into the EmpowerPortal – their residential solar platform.  Dividend operates in over 30 states with a network of almost 100 installation partners.

Sunnova-LogoSunnova, a residential lease provider, raised a $250 MM fund to develop solar projects in the US.  They are utilizing the Switch APIs in their internal quote tool, NovaQuotes, for installers in 10+ states including California, Texas, New York and New Jersey.

rsz_logo

Protection1, one of the largest home security providers in the country, launched a solar PPA product through a $200 MM fund with their subsidiary, BriteEnergy.  Their installers use their new quote tool, built on top of the Switch APIs, to quote solar to existing and new home security customers in California.

 

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Our Team is Growing! Meet Our Newest Members

2015 has been a great year for Genability.  So far, we’ve have added five new members to our engineering and data operations teams. It’s been exciting to see our company grow in size and to see so many new faces around the office every day. Here’s your chance to get to know our newest folks a little better.

 

GenabilityHeadshots_I1C0990_sharpScott Harris
Role at Genability: I’m a Customer Implementation Engineer at Genability. I try to make it as easy as possible for customers to integrate the Genability API into their tools.
I’ve lived in: Orange County, CA.
Outside of work, I like to: Run, bike, and watch TV.
I work in cleantech because: It’s interesting. There’s always something new to learn.

 

GenabilityHeadshots_I1C8633_sharpKevin Timms
Role at Genability: Tariff Data Analyst
I’ve lived in: Rochester NY, Dayton OH, New Haven CT, Phoenix AZ, San Francisco CA
Outside of work, I like to: Run, go on brewery tours, and sit on patios.
I work in cleantech because: With a lot of new hardware and business models based on cleantech, there’s some really great (fun!) opportunities for data analytics to make a meaningful impact on the future of energy.

 

GenabilityHeadshots_I1C0992_sharpMatthew Gerring
Role at Genability: User experience and data visualization
I’ve lived in: Shingle Springs, Placerville, Sacramento, Berkeley, San Francisco, and Oakland, CA; Washington D.C.; and Brno, Czech Republic
Outside of work, I like to: Cook, play music, ride my bike, plant things, build things.
I work in cleantech because: It’s a form of applied optimism, it’s an important supporting role for all of my friends locking down to pipelines, highways, and fossil fuel export terminals, and because the world doesn’t need a new way to order takeout :)

 

Andrew_I1C9755-2_bwAndrew Fister
Role at Genability: Senior Software Engineer.
I’ve lived in: Maryland, Illinois, San Francisco.
Outside of work, I like to: Play capoeira, read novels, and ride my bicycle around San Francisco.
I work in cleantech because: Improving energy production and efficiency is the only way to sustain our civilization long into the future, and also to improve the standard of living for the global community.

 

Sheena_I1C9744_bwSheena Carswell
Role at Genability: Extending and improving the scalability of Genability APIs
I’ve lived in: I grew up in Scotland, and lived and worked briefly in Sydney, Australia. Since moving to the US I have lived in Boulder, CO, Santa Barbara, CA and Berkeley, CA.
Outside of work, I like to: Eat good food, garden, travel, and play with our twin four-year-old boys.
I work in cleantech because: I like the job satisfaction of working in a field that makes a positive change to the world. It’s exciting to be involved in such a growing field.

 

These five people are all welcome additions to our team and we look forward to seeing how much they can achieve in the future. Check back soon for even more new faces!

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Documentation Update: New How-Tos & Java Library

Over the last few weeks we’ve been making a lot of updates to our developer site. We’ve touched every page of the documentation, added new sections and updated some code. Read on to find out more.

How-Tos

One of the biggest updates to the documentation is the creation of the “How-Tos” section. Whether you just want to add a utility logo to your application or you need to do an entire customer savings analysis, the How-To section is the best place to start.

If you’re just getting familiar with the API, you’ll probably want to start with the Calculate Potential Solar Savings How-To. It outlines the entire process of doing a savings analysis with the Genability API. If you’ve got a nagging question that you can’t answer, the page of common scenarios might come in handy.

Java Client Library

We’ve also made two major updates to the Java client library. The first update is that we’ve brought the library up-to-date with the most recent changes to the API. This includes things like uploading a profile with baseline data instead of reading data or using the populateCosts parameter of the savings analysis endpoint. Every object, endpoint, and parameter in the API is now available through the client library.

The second major update is that we’ve made the Java client library is available on the Maven central repo. Now, instead of having to download, import, and compile the library manually, you can just add the following snippet to your pom.xml:

<dependency>
  <groupId>com.genability</groupId>
  <artifactId>genability-client</artifactId>
  <version>1.2.1</version>
</dependency>

You can see more about the client library on its dedicated GitHub page. Make sure to read the tutorial to see how to get started.

Updated Documentation

Finally, we’ve made a lot of updates — some major, some minor — to almost every page in the GDN. Some of the highlights include:

  • We’ve added a section on the Usage Profile page that describes how to upload solar production data as a modeled baseline rather than as meter reading data. This is now the preferred way to upload any solar production estimates that you’ve created.
  • On the Savings Analysis page, we’ve added a list of inputs that are available to you when using the calculator. Now you’ll know how to set the annual degradation rate for your solar system.
  • The Security page now includes examples of how to authenticate to the API in a number of common languages.

Give Us Your Feedback

All of these updates are made with one goal in mind: to make it as easy as possible for you to integrate the Genability API into your application. Let us know how we’re doing! If you find anything that is missing, out of date, or confusing, send us an email.

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Rates Rise in the Northeast

If you live in the Northeast, you may want to re-think your New Years resolutions to include “going solar”!  This past week, several New England electric utilities announced significant utility rate increases for residential and general (commercial & industrial) customers:

NStar: 30% increases

Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P):  25% increases.

National Grid – MA (NG):  40% increases.

Western Massachusetts Electric (WMECo).  30% increases.

Our Data Team constantly tracks and updates our database of electricity rates.  We’ll post more as we see additional increases.

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We’re Hiring: Start 2015 Off Right!

If your New Year’s resolution is to workout more and eat healthier, we probably can’t help you that much.  Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 10.56.50 AMIf your resolution is to find an awesome new job in a growing and exciting company, you’ve come to the right place.  We are currently hiring for a number of positions:

 

Core Java API Engineer.  Enhance our cloud architecture to handle the increased load, as well as develop our next-generation rate engine and internal and external APIs.

Full Stack Senior Software Engineer. Take charge of our internal and external web-based tools, including reporting, analytics and showcase apps.

Calculation Farm Wrangler Software Engineer.  Manage our Calculation Engine as we re-engineer and tune for increased volume.

Tariff Data Entry Specialist. Help grow and maintain our industry leading database of electricity rates.

If any of these seem like just the thing you’re looking for to start 2015 off right, send us your resume at jobs@genability.com.  We’d love to chat!

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Come Work With Us! Seeking Senior Software Engineers

Genability is growing and we want YOU to join our team! We’re looking for talented senior software engineers to help us scale our software and develop our newest products: Switch, Conduct and Gauge. Our customers include major solar installers and developers, as well as the leaders in Connected Home, EV and Connected Building. Our work is challenging, rewarding, and you will have lots of independence and flexibility.

Interested? Check out the full job listing

Please send resumes to jobs@genability.com.

No Recruiters!  Do Not Call Us!  Seriously, We Do Not Hire From Recruiters!

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