When should you propose switching utility rate plans? Sometimes, customers can get the best deal when they switch rate plans at the same time as they install a solar system. For example, if they will be using far less electricity after switching, there may be a special rate available for low-usage customers. Or perhaps the local utility has a variable-rate plan that is cheap during much of the day but charges a lot during the peak afternoon hours—the very time when a solar installation generates peak power.
The ModSolar platform has a new “pre/post solar” feature that can calculate savings based on a post-solar rate plan that is different from the pre-solar one. If you are familiar with the available rate plans, you probably already know what plan to recommend to new customers when they begin generating solar power. You can now specify a “post-solar” rate plan in the Utility Rates drop-down, located in Proposal Settings. The default setting for this drop-down is to continue using the pre-solar rate.
And even if you aren’t completely familiar with the rate-plan options, you can point your customer in the right direction by having the ModSolar Platform pick the best plan for the customer. The selection can be based either on first-year savings, or on the savings over the lifetime of the installation—whichever you prefer. Lifetime savings takes into account the gradual degradation of panel generating capacity and the expected inflation (at a rate you specify) of the rates the utility charges. You can specify first-year or lifetime savings in the Utility Rate drop-down in Proposal Settings.
If you choose either of these “best rate” options, the software will calculate savings for every available rate, and that means the proposal-generation process could take quite a bit longer than normal. But your customer will be grateful for the additional savings you might uncover.
Note that not every possible rate is considered in selecting the “best” rate. Some rates are available only to those who qualify in some way (e.g. utility employees, low-income customers, or customers who run medical equipment) and these rates are not considered by the software. If you have customers who qualify for special rates like these, you will have to select the rate manually.
It is also possible that the system will choose a “best” rate that is inappropriate for the customer (e.g. the best rate might be a rate for customers with electric heat, but the prospect might not have electric heat).
So you must use the new “best rate” options with care and always review the choice the system has made (it appears in the Utility Rate drop-down). But when used appropriately, it can be a powerful tool for teasing out the best possible return on a solar investment.