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Case Study: Mrs. D. of Paso Robles, CA

(The client's names are redacted to protect their privacy.
Underlined words or phrases are links to documents cited.)

1. August of 2001: I installed a grid-tie solar electric system for Mr. and Ms. D. of Paso Robles California. Prior to installation we applied for and received a rebate reservation (application and confirmation).

We applied for and received a building permit. After the installation we passed the building inspection. (Inspection card).

As part of our standard operating procedures, we prepared a packet to finalize our application to the NEM department of Pacific Gas and Electric. Also, as part of our SOP, we mailed the application to PG&E with a return receipt request. That application was received by PG&E on August 9, 2001 as proven by the receipts.

2. 2009: Fast forward to 2009. Mr. D passes away.

3. August, 2011: Fast forward to 2011. PG&E installs a “Smart”meter at Ms. D’s residence. The “Smart” meter is not smart enough to register power sold back to utility and rather than crediting Ms. D for the power she is generating, she is now being charged for the power. This results in Ms D having a very expensive power bill. When Ms. D notices this, she contacts PG&E to find out why. She is told that PG&E has no record that she has a grid-tied solar electric system.

Ms. D protested that she had applied in 2001 and has proof. She spoke with a Dela Y. Chew of PG&E. Ms. D reported to me that Ms. Chew treated her in a condescending and dismissive manner. Ms. D is an elderly woman of polite demeanor and I can not imagine she warranted teh treatment she received.

Ms. Chew advised Ms. D that she would have to fill out a new "application to generate." Ms. D contacted me to request that I assist her in preparing a new application. After hearing the chain of events I offered to assist MS. D, pro bono.

4. September, 2011: I prepared an application and e-mailed it to Dela Chew on September 27, 2011 with an e-mail receipt requested. The receipt came back that the e-mail was deleted without being read. Click this link to see the reply. I sent the application again wit the same result. Click this link to see the second reply. I was very disappointed to have my e-mail messages deleted without being read.

5. November 1, 2011: I searched my contacts and found one for a Ms. Angie Wong of PG&E. She directed me to another e-mail address to send in the application. I did so on November 10, 2011.

6. About November 20, 2011: I received a telephone message from Sheila of PG&E asking me to call her regarding MS. D. Sheila has a very strong accent and I could not make out her telephone number on the message she left.

7. November 30, 2011: Sheila called again and I was able to make out her number.

8. December 1, 2011: I called Sheila. She told me that the application I submitted was missing the model number of the inverter in two places on the application. I pointed out that it was indeed filled out completely in one of the places and filled out in a generic format in the other. I also pointed out that this format would have been accepted in 2001 and explained that PG&E had lost the original application. She agreed to pencil in the missing digits.

9. I pointed out to Sheila that the model of inverter (Xantrex ST1500) is no longer being made and is not on the list of currently accepted solar inverters, but it was lilsted in 2001 (list). I asked Sheila if this would be a problem. Sheila did not know and asked if I would like to speak with her supervisor, Mike Handle (415-973-3003). I replied that of course I would.

10. When Mr. Handle came to the phone he immediately began speaking, unabated. After a minute or two I asked Mr. Handle if, “I could get an word in edgewise.” Mr. Handle replied, “well, why not?” This remark offended me, it was as if I had no right to speak on my client’s behalf.

I explained again the entire chain of events in as polite and abbreviated a manner as I could. Mr. Handle told me he did not believe that we had sent in the applicaiton in 2001. He accused me of lying.

Mr. Handle told me that the decision to accept the inverter for generating would be made in San Luis Obispo by a PG&E “Planning Engineer.” I asked for a contact person so I could plead my case on behalf of Ms. D to expedite approval. Mr. Handle gave me the number of 805-546-4112 to contact the local office.

11. December 1, 2011: I called the SLO Planing Engineer number immediately and spoke to Kathy Oles. Ms. Oles told me that the decision to approve would not be made by her office, but instead by an office in Fresno. She gave me the number of 877-743-4112 to call.

12. December 1, 2011: I called the Fresno number and spoke to person named Jay who told me he was in San Jose. Jay refused to give me his last name, last initial or employee number for my records. Jay told me the decision would be made by Mr. Handle in San Francisco. I explained to Jay that Mr. Handle sent me to Ms Oles and Ms Oles sent me to him. Jay placed me on hold for an extended period of time while he called Mr. Handle himself. Jay came back on the line and reiterated that the decision would be made by Mr, Handle.

13. December 1, 2011: I called Mr Handle right back and received his voice mail. I left a message telling him what I had learned from MS. Oles and from Jay and asked him to call me back to clarify. He never called me back.

14. December 8, 2001: I called Mr. Handle again today (415-973-3003). Mr. Handle answered. I told him I was calling on behalf of Mrs. D. He did not remember the case. I told him I had left a message and that he never called me back. Mr. Handle remembered then that he never gave me the courtesy of a call back.

I asked Mr. Handle why I was told the decision to approve the application would be made in San Luis Obispo when the person (MS. Oles) in San Luis Obispo told me that they would not make the decision. Mr. Handle said the decision would be made in the “engineering department (in his office).” I asked Mr. Handle for a contact person in engineering so I could call and request the case be expedited. Mr. Handle refused to give me contact information. He told me, “The engineers are not to be harassed,’ and “you can harass me all you want.” I told Mr. Handle that I was offended that he would accuse me of harassment and asked for an apology. He refused. I asked Mr. Handle for the contact information for his boss. Mr. Handle said, “I work for PG&E,” and at first refused to provide me with a contact for his supervisor. He eventually gave me the name of Mark O’Leary at 415-972-5265.

I also informed Mr. Handle that I have a list of the inverters approved in 2001.

As of today (December 8, 2011) I have decided to write this narrative and send it Mr. O’Leary. I also feel it is time to contact the PUC and elected officials to enlist allies on behalf of Ms. D.

December 30, 2011:PG&E contacted me and informed me that they would issue a net metering agreement retrocatively for Mrs. D.