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LAH resident challenges PG&E over solar savings


Photo By: Elle Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Elle Van Houtte/Town Crier

Los Altos Hills resident Mark Brier purchased many different electrical readers to detect the inaccuracies in his PG&E meter.

When Los Altos Hills resident Mark Brier paid $70,000 for a solar energy system in 2007, he figured he would save on his electric bill as well as do his part to help the environment.

Five years down the road, he said his energy savings are minimal. His cautionary tale involves dealing with a parade of technicians and years of troubleshooting only to discover his solar meter wasn’t functioning properly. It was not tracking information that could have been applied to his expected solar energy credits. But even with the problem identified, Brier said he has yet to receive any cash back from PG&E.

Brier has filed a claim against PG&E with the California Public Utilities Commission, seeking payback on energy savings as well as compensation for his time.

Brier said he followed up on his initial 48-panel installation with 21 additional panels when he found that his cost savings “were underwhelming.” After still showing few savings, he purchased three energy-monitoring devices and cut back on energy use.

He said he hired electricians, energy auditors and solar inspectors to address the problem. PG&E consultants recommended converting four panels, dedicated to the pool filter, to solar. They also suggested a monitoring device on the PG&E meter to track consumption. Brier said he had it installed, only to have a PG&E inspector show up and put a hold on his account because of meter tampering.

The frustrating experience left Brier with three questions: Is your SmartMeter working? How do you know? Who owns your house consumption data?

The last question is pivotal, according to Brier, because he said PG&E claims ownership of his energy-consumption data. Brier said he is at the utility company’s mercy in terms of determining what his solar credits should be.

PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles said Brier’s case was the first he had heard about faulty solar meters, and that it could not be a SmartMeter because those were installed after 2007. Boyles said he would look into Brier’s complaints.

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