Power Trip (#340)

I didn’t plan to take the summer off from blogging. Every day, I’d think, “I’m going to write the post about rescuing the cat! Or the one about husbandly information hoarding!”

And every day something would happen. Maybe an ant invasion. Maybe non-stop emails about soccer. Maybe another volunteer organization needed something handled. With the country opening up again (sometimes in very stupid ways), I had more visitors this summer than ever.

It was also summer vacation, which meant Baby D was home. I dread summer vacation. Yes, Dalton is more independent now that he’s older, but also more argumentative about chores. About screen time. About EVERYTHING, actually.

To burn off Dalton’s excessive energy in something besides being contrary, we spent a lot of time on the soccer pitch this summer. In Los Angeles, this means games Friday-Monday, from Oceanside to Norco.

On the remaining weekdays, summer is also the season of doctor’s appointments, optometry appointments, vet appointments, and dentist appointments.

When the city took out all our trees, we put in solar panels. This has been Andy’s dream for years. He handled all the research, picked the company, and signed the forms. But dealing with the initial surveys, inspections, installation, stucco repair, and repainting was on me.

Some of you are thinking, “Oh! How exciting! You got solar! How is it?”

Solar panels on a roof.
Super expensive art installation photo.

I don’t know. We’re two months in and so far it’s just a super expensive art installation.

This is due to bureaucracy, incompetence, and greed. But mostly greed.

First, the city conducts a mandatory inspection. That takes at least two weeks to SCHEDULE, and another week to happen. Takes all of 10 minutes for inspectors and one utility company employee to walk around the house with coffee cups, nod, and head back to Starbucks for a refill.

Then the solar company has to notify (i.e., file paperwork) with Southern California Edison (our electric utility and certified assholes) to interconnect our installation to the power grid. This involves a very difficult, lengthy process on their end involving FLIPPING A SWITCH.

The time it takes to flip the switch can be 2 weeks or 4 weeks. Why so long, you may ask? Do they use a SLOTH?!



It’s not actually a sloth. It’s a manufactured delay because SCE will no longer make money on us. Instead, they will be forced to buy electricity FROM us (although for practically pennies on the dollar, and they’d like to make it even less). Which means a dip in SCE profits. And when utilities aren’t regulated, the greedy fuckers are all about profit—no matter which fires they start and who they kill.

Huh, it’s almost like it’s a bad idea to allow utilities to operate unregulated.

SCE is determined to squeeze as much profit from us as they can. Hence a delay that would put the slowest sloth to shame. Despite the fact that SCE can still make money back at night, when solar panels no longer generate electricity.

Now, if your solar installation includes a battery, which ours does, you can expect SCE delay even longer. I mean, how are they going to make money off us if we store our own power to use at night?! CAPITALIST SACRILEGE!

So even though the battery was inspected along with everything else, and even though it makes no difference in flipping that one switch, SCE takes twice as long to interconnect customers who install a battery…stretching out the delay to collect one final month of profits.

They have other tricks, too. SCE changed the required form for grid interconnection in July. All customers/ solar companies, even those mere days away from interconnectivity, suddenly had to fill out a different form. And, you guessed it, wait ANOTHER month for switch-flipping.

Andy signed the new form at the beginning of August. He followed up with the company a few weeks later, but got no return call, email, or text from our project coordinator. He figured it was just the usual delay by SCE. Andy followed up again, got stuck on hold, disconnected, and then received the runaround from two male flunkies who insisted there was an unsigned form. Andy spent days finding a competent woman who recognized the issue and sent him on to a manager (male). The manager then told Andy that the problem was the fact that they had TWO Andy Wongs as customers “which created confusion.” The solar company had not even filed our signed paperwork with SCE.

“Are you kidding me?” I screeched when Andy relayed this conversation. “They’ve been sitting on our signed paperwork for over three weeks? And their excuse is ‘you have the same Asian name as someone else?!’ There are over 60 million Wongs in the world, over 200,000 of them live in the US, and probably more than half of those are in California. And they can’t cope with TWO Wongs? Literally the reason account numbers exist. Jesus. Some bullshit racism to excuse incompetence.”

“Right?” Andy agreed. “This wouldn’t happen with John Smith!”

Because I never pass up a chance to win an argument, even more than a decade later, I couldn’t resist noting, “Of course, this would never have happened if we’d stuck to my original plan and hyphenated our last names. You would have been the only Ashbough-Wong in the whole world, not just California.”

Andy tried to argue, but I argued back until he caved. (Inevitable, of course, after I spent all summer literally getting into fighting shape with Baby D.)

We still aren’t running on solar power. The biggest heatwave in history is about to hit the Southwest. We can expect insane electric bills and rolling blackouts, instead of free AC.

If only being right were truly cold comfort.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

19 thoughts on “Power Trip (#340)”

  1. This is insane. I’m not sure how it is here. It’s expensive and the payback is years because of our weather. Good luck and maybe next year your A/C will be free unless they invent another form.

    1. Well, in good news, the Inflation Reduction Act increases to Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit to 30% of the installation cost, when it was only 26% and poised to drop down to 22%. Andy, with his eye for a bargain, is SUPER excited about this.

      So are environmentalists everywhere.

  2. I’m sorry to read this. No, I’m more than sorry I’m pissed off with you. I soooo agree with you: “Huh, it’s almost like it’s a bad idea to allow utilities to operate unregulated.” It’ll get worked out, but to be doing the right thing and to be thwarted like you have, it’s discouraging.

    1. I appreciate the pissed off solidarity!

      Am looking forward to giving SCE the finger, along with lots of other Californians. They keep trying to ram through bills for all kinds of rate hikes, etc. So far the judges and voters are fighting back. Even the governor has turned on their very, very powerful lobby.

      The thing that is most frustrating is that we could have been generating power the state needed for weeks. Argh.

  3. In 1999, a year after my husband died, I decided to have a couple of solar panels put on my roof. I hunted up some guy who was learning about it, and he helped me set it up. The trouble was, I’m not good at this sort of thing. So whenever anything went wrong, I freaked out and called the guy. I sold the house four years later, so I don’t know how it’s working now. Moral of my story: Never try out new technology if you’re not technologically or mechanically inclined. Wait until it’s more well established. Computers, cellphones, and all the normal things around the house frustrate me enough as sit is. Best of luck with your solar panels.

  4. My dad (who lives in rural Maryland) was recently contacted by a solar panel company who wanted to do an assessment and possibly sell him solar. Dad enthusiastically agreed and they scheduled a time for the visit. Then he got a message the day before the visit, saying the company had done an assessment of the property remotely (via satellite imagery, I guess?) and determined he has too many trees around his house and therefore is not a good candidate for solar. I don’t get this…It’s a fairly large house and a lot of the roof stands in full sun.

    Anyway, your story is so effing annoying and discouraging for our planet. How are we going to get out of this climate change mess?!

    1. Yes, they used satellite imagery for ours, but it was old and still showed our trees! So when the consultant showed up, he did a reassessment on the fly and was excited by how much more power we would generate. But it still would have been worth it even with the trees. So I dunno what profit margins the company was looking at for your dad, but what a bummer. Our roof isn’t even that big.

  5. Welcome back!

    It’s so cool you installed solar panels (now, if only you could actually use them…)
    Lots of neighbours have them in my hometown. My parents still didn’t take the step (if it was up to me, we’d have them already). Some friends got them installed a few months ago and the procedure must be way easier and quicker in Spain, as a few days later they were already producing and using their own energy. They have some app when they can check how much they are producing, using and selling. They don’t have the battery though, it seems that’s still very expensive here (I think I heard it was something like 30,000 EUR).

    1. The battery is incredibly expensive. That’s where the federal tax credit is helpful. But right now a little federal intervention like in Spain would also be helpful. Our utilities have too much power.

  6. That’s what happens when you allow great big monoliths to self-regulate – I’m so f***ing pissed for you too.

    I had a good laugh at Andy trying to argue with you over the hyphenated names – tsk, tsk, tsk. It’s almost like he doesn’t know the goddess he is married to 😀 My colleague calls his wife “the rottweiler” and proudly despatches her to fight their battles. But when drink taken, he forgets not to argue with her as well 😀

    1. I snorted coffee over “the Rottweiler.” Thanks for sharing that. Andy has happily let me take on everything from the cop neighbor to the contractor neighbor to the random Trump supporter.

      Oh, and I get to haggle with the car salespeople, too.

  7. Damn, talk about bureaucracy! I can’t believe how crazy hard it is to get solar in California… you think with their whole goal to be the leader of “being green” in the US, they would make it a little easier to make solar panels a reality? My friends in Utah got solar panel and I’m pretty sure it was a 2-4 week process, max!

    And yeah, that Andy Wong thing would have made my blood boil. John Smith definitely wouldn’t have had this issue.

    I hope you can get the solar panels installed in time for NEXT summer at least…!!!

    1. Well, it wasn’t hard to GET the panels. That was easy, they were installed within a month, I think. Hard is apparently getting them approved and interconnected with the power grid, even though that’s way less work than the days workers spent putting the panels on the roof and hooking them up.

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