The Eclipse of Solar Buyback Programs in Texas

Did you install solar panels in hopes of being able to get rid of your ever-increasing electric bill, or at least lower it significantly? Did you have enough panels installed that you produce more energy than you consume – thereby hoping to make a little money back through a solar buyback program?

When looking at your recent electricity statement, have you discovered that you are still paying the electric company more than you thought you’d be? And for those that installed extra panels, have you noticed that you are not being financially compensated for it?

You are not alone.

Your eagerness at producing your own (green) energy and not being solely reliant on a utility company, in addition to possibly making some money back from overproduction, is now being offset by the thought that you’ve been sort of deceived. This notion of deceit is completely justified, as you may or may not have been informed of these benefits by the friendly solar salesperson. Until the last couple months what the sales rep said was true (unless he/she told you that you would never, ever have to pay an electric bill again). What is also true and something you must have realized the moment you started paying utility bills, Big Electric is a for-profit corporation.

The fact that Big Electric does not like giving money or credits away does not make it the bad guy. However, refusing to continue to fairly compensate those who put their excess energy back into the grid clouds our perception of them. It’s almost as if they’re saying:

“Thank you for adding so many kilowatts to the system! You are really helping us prevent those kinds of rolling blackouts we had in the Great Freeze of 2021! You want compensation for the extra energy you’re producing? Sorry, we’re not doing that anymore. It hurts our bottom line. But we’ll gladly keep taking your excess energy because isn’t the knowledge that you’re contributing payment enough?”

Within the last couple months, Big Electric no longer offers cash-back solar buyback. They may still use the term “solar buyback” or something equivalent because they are, after all, buying the energy you produce and generously giving you a credit to apply back to the energy you consume. Until recently if you produced more than you needed, Big Electric had plans that would give you rollover credit or cash-back. Some plans even covered the extra little fees tacked onto the statement. But now if you read the Electricity Facts Label and/or the Terms of Service you will find that you’ll still get monthly credit for the amount of energy your system produces, but it is capped at the amount of energy you use. If you produce any excess energy it is sent to the grid and you’re out of luck. No cash back or extra credits for you!

Now you may think, Okay, at least the energy I’ve produced cancels out my utility bill. While that is a logical thought, you will soon realize that you are still required to pay Transmission and Distribution Service Provider Delivery Charges (TDUs), a monthly base charge, taxes, and any other little fees associated with utilities.

On the bright side of all of this, with solar panels you may be paying less than you would for electricity than you would without. For a financed solar panel system that monthly amount should remain the same for the duration of the loan–whereas electricity rates continue to climb at a rapid pace. And, don’t forget, you’re contributing green energy!

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