Coordinating With Utilities (To Help You Save On Utilities)
March 6, 2023
4 min read
One of the misunderstood steps that customers face when making a switch to solar is the necessity of coordinating closely and accurately with their local utility company. It is essential to coordinate closely with the local utility company because they are responsible for connecting the solar panel system to the electrical grid. This coordination not only ensures that all safety and technical requirements are met, but also that the solar panel system doesn't interfere with the power supply of other customers. The utility company also helps coordinate the information on financial incentives and net metering, which may help to offset the cost of the solar panel system.
At ION Solar, we work closely with the utility company and build relationships with them on behalf of our customers. We do this by devoting an entire customer service team strictly to coordinating with utility companies (both before and after installation) rather than simply assigning a single individual to the task. At ION, we do all of this to not only ensure that our customer's solar panel systems are properly installed, but also to make sure that they can take advantage of any and all financial benefits.
Utilities Teams vs Utility Coordinators
The Utility Coordinator Model. Residential solar companies have traditionally chosen to employ a single utility coordinator or utility specialist to attempt to manage all of the setup between the customer and the utility company. Generally, this is done in an effort for the solar company to save money, as employing a handful of utility coordinators is more cost-effective than an entire team geared around building a relationship with the utility company.
The downside, however, is that entrusting the work of coordinating so much vital information into the hands of a single utility specialist can lead to serious consequences or delays if even a single misstep takes place. The work that must be managed with the utility company represents a massive amount of time and includes the need for accurate account-holder information, photographs, and documentation. This is a tall order for a utility coordinator to manage alone, especially in the face of handling several residential solar accounts. If even a single piece falls through the cracks or is reported incorrectly, the resulting delay could mean up to 6 months of waiting or delay for the customer.
The Utility Team Model. At ION Solar, our approach is different because we recognize that a delay represents a very real cost for our customers. Rather than assigning the entirety of utility coordination to a single individual, we have pre-install and post-install portions of our utility team that are devoted completely to working with utility companies. One handles the installation approval process with the customer’s local utility. That process entails submitting the design, the approval application, and all necessary documentation to ensure we can install the client's system as soon as possible with their utility company's permission.
After the system is installed, the second team then submits the passed inspection report to the utility company in order to verify that everything was installed to code and to perfection. That process initiates the utility company’s action to install the bidirectional meter so the client can be connected to their grid, build credits, and start saving money. Having the utility department split into two teams ensures quick timelines, quality applications, and a great customer experience.
Building a Relationship on Our Customers’ Behalf
A lot of utility companies, especially now that solar is booming, have lengthier timelines for setup. It works to our customers' advantage that we build and maintain good relationships with utility companies in their areas. We make personal calls to each utility company multiple times per month, reaching out to the managers and supervisors of their solar divisions. These calls are designed to get feedback from the utility company on ways that we can work more smoothly and efficiently with them. As a result, we not only streamline the process for our clients, but also build relationships of trust with their utility company, making the process easier for potential future customers.
All of this comes back to a team of ION Solar employees committed entirely to coordinating the intricacies of the utility companies on behalf of our customers. This is true for each step of the customer journey with ION, whether it's utilities, system design, or even the site survey; each portion is handled by a separate team committed to providing excellent customer service in one specific area.
Let Ion Solar Help You Save Money on Your Utilities
If a switch to solar is something that's on your radar, consider reaching out to our team here at ION Solar. Coordinating the utility transition for you is just part of the process; our teams are ready to help make every step a smooth one.
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Actual savings will vary depending on system production, geography, weather, shade, electricity usage, utility rates, rate increases, and financing options. Savings estimated here assumes utility rate increases annually and stable customer utility usage rates. Contact us to receive a detailed proposal based on your home and energy usage.