• If you’re a San Diego homeowner and you have a serious medical condition that requires you to use more power than the average homeowner, you should be aware of SDG&E’s Medical Baseline allowance program. The Medical Baseline Allowance program allows SDG&E customers who have certain serious medical conditions to buy more power for lower rates - which results in lower monthly bills. If you are one of these customers who qualifies for a medical baseline allowance, you should be aware that the allowance is compatible with solar electricity pricing plans - so you can save on both fronts. Let’s take a look at the Medical Baseline Allowance program - who qualifies, and how you can combine it with solar to save even more.

    What is a Baseline Allowance?

    A baseline allowance is the amount of electricity your home can use at the lowest pricing tier as determined by your utility. If you happen to use more than your baseline, the electricity you use will cost more, as it will be charged at a higher tier. In order to maintain the lowest bill possible, homeowners want to keep their usage within their baseline allowance.

    Baseline allowances are determined by several factors in SDG&E territory. They include:

    • Climate zone in which you live - coastal, desert, mountain, etc.
    • Time of the year - Baselines increase during the Summer as usage is typically higher
    • Number of days in your billing cycle
    • Type of service you have (electric and gas, or just electric)

     

    Baseline allowances apply to both standard and Time-of-Use rate structures in SDG&E territory, however, there is no high usage charges in Time-of-Use rate structures.

    What is a Medical Baseline Allowance?

    Medical Baseline allowances are not specific to SDG&E, in fact, they exist in most utilities across the country. The core idea behind Medical Baseline Allowances is the acknowledgement that people with certain illnesses or physical conditions use more power than those without conditions by default, as they rely on medical equipment using power just to stay alive. Therefore, in light of this acknowledgement, those utility customers who require this equipment are allotted more power at the lowest rates, when normally they would be getting charged more for their higher usage.

    So for example, in SDG&E, the allowance received with the program is 16.5 kWh of electricity per day or 0.822 therms of natural gas per day, or both, in addition to the standard baseline allowance.

    Who qualifies for medical baseline allowance in SDG&E?

    Who qualifies for medical baseline allowance in SDG&E?

    SDG&E claims that over 50,000 customers of all ages have qualified for the medical baseline allowance. There are two main categories of customers who qualify for medical baseline allowance. The first category are those customers who have medical conditions that require stable and constant temperature control. There are many conditions that would fall under this category, but SDG&E lists these conditions specifically:

    • Paraplegia
    • Quadriplegia
    • Hemiplegia
    • multiple sclerosis 
    • scleroderma 
    • a compromised immune system 
    • a life-threatening illness 
    • or to prevent deterioration of a medical condition

    So you can see that the list of qualifying illnesses is quite broad - many diseases could be considered a “life-threatening illness”. So whatever your condition may be, if it requires a temperature-controlled environment, you can probably qualify.

    There are also specific medical devices which, if the customer requires the device to live, can qualify the customer for medical baseline allowance. SDG&E lists a few of these devices on their site. They include:

    • Aerosol tents 
    • Apnea monitors 
    • Continuous positive air-way pressure machines (CPAP) 
    • Hemodialysis machines 
    • Kidney dialysis machines 
    • Suction machines 
    • IPPB machines 
    • Electrostatic nebulizers 
    • Ultrasonic nebulizers 
    • Pressure pumps 
    • Pressure pads 
    • Compressors 
    • Electric nerve stimulators 
    • Motorized wheelchairs 
    • Iron lungs 
    • Respirators 
    • Oxygen concentrators 

    So if you use any of these machines to maintain your health, you can qualify for medical baseline allowance. Many of these are likely very rare, but others, like CPAP machines, are fairly common.

    Even if you pay your landlord for utilities, you can still qualify for the program. The baseline allowance can be applied to the electric bill your landlord pays.

  • Medical Baseline Allowance and Solar

    If you’re on a medical baseline allowance, you’re likely already struggling to pay your power bills, even with the allowance. That’s why you may be interested in going solar - you’ve probably heard about how it can greatly reduce or completely eliminate any electric charges you may have, all while reducing your carbon footprint. The great news is that you can go solar, and keep your medical baseline allowance in SDG&E territory. 

    According to SDG&E’s website, you can be on a net metering rate structure and maintain your medical baseline allowance, which means that you can save both with solar and your baseline allowance. Specifically, they say there are “net metering plans that are NEM pricing plans that are compatible with Medical Baseline”. They don’t include too much information besides that, but say that if you are going renewable and have a medical baseline, to call them to discuss the options.

    How Net Metering Works

    So we know that SDG&E allows medical baseline allowance with a net metering rate structure.  But how does Net Metering work? When it comes to how homeowners with solar installed are billed by the utility, Net Metering was the original arrangement in SDG&E territory. Net Metering rate structures were created originally to reimburse solar homeowners for the extra power their solar generated and sent back to the grid. 

    Since the creation of Net Metering in 1996, there have been several iterations of it, but the core function of selling extra power created by the solar during the day for credits to zero out the electricity usage at night has remained.

    In the early versions of Net Metering, all electricity prices were based on the "tiered rate structure" which meant that the cost of electricity was based on the volume of electricity you used for the entire month. The exception was with solar, because as long as you produced the same amount of electricity as you used, your NET electricity usage was low or no - and so your charges were the same.

    In the current iteration of Net Metering, or Net Metering 2.0, electricity is charged by when it is used, and not by how much is used. Otherwise known as a “Time of Use” rate structure, electricity is more expensive during the time of day when electric demand is higher. During the day, when people are at work or out and about, electricity is less expensive. Then, in the late afternoon / evening, when everyone is home and cooking, watching TV, etc. electricity is the most expensive

    So, since you can be on a medical baseline and also a net metering rate structure, you can assume that you will likely be on a Time of Use rate structure - with a medical baseline factored in. 

    Why You Should Install Solar if you have a Medical Issue

    So now that we know that medical baseline allowances are compatible with net metering and solar, let’s go over the other benefits that going solar can bring to those with a medical condition.

    The first reason you should install solar if you have a medical condition is the financial benefits that solar can bring. Utilizing Net Metering, you can earn enough solar credits during the day to offset your use in the afternoon / night, such that you can greatly reduce or completely eliminate your power bill. The amount you can save, especially if you are constantly running medical equipment, is significant, even if you already have a medical baseline. That’s more money that can go to your medical bills that you desperately need.

    The second reason you should install solar if you have a medical issue is, combined with battery storage, solar can provide backup power for your home. With rolling blackouts becoming more frequent in SDG&E territory during times of high fire danger - every San Diego homeowner will face blackouts at some point in the future, especially those in East County. If you rely on your A/C or heat working or medical devices to be running in order to live, you understand the importance of securing your power.

    So instead of relying on a backup generator, if you install solar + battery storage, you can not only save money on your power bills, but you can program your battery such that when you lose power from the utility, the power you generated from your solar and stored in your battery will be used to power your home. That way, instead of having to purchase a backup generator, you can purchase a solar system + battery which will save you money, reduce your carbon footprint, and backup your power all in one.

    Real Life Example

    A Stellar Solar customer named Rob Knecht has a daughter with a severe neurological disorder that requires a consistently temperature controlled environment. Living in Escondido, that takes alot of power during the Summer, so much that the Knecht family was going into debt just paying their power bills. They went solar and now completely offset their energy use, so they can keep the house cool for their daughter worry-free, even in the Summer. Check out a full video on the Knecht's here:

  • Solar Cribs Episode 5 - Featuring the Knechts

  • So if you’re a medical baseline allowance customer under SDG&E, you may be wondering whether or not you can go solar and keep your medical baseline. The answer is yes, and there are many good reasons for those who have a medical condition to go solar, including saving money and providing backup power. If you’re a homeowner in San Diego with a medical condition and are looking for a solar quote, contact us today.

     

  • About the Author

    Michael Powers

    http://www.terrawatts.com/

    Michael is one of the founding partners of SunPower by Stellar Solar. In 2001, he helped launch The Home Depot’s national solar energy program which is now offering home solar through hundreds of stores in nearly a dozen states. He is a writer and marketing professional with over 30 years’ experience in the fields of energy, market intelligence and leadership training. He currently serves as treasurer and board member of Global Energy Network Institute (GENI), a San Diego-based non-governmental organization that advocates linking renewable energy resources around the world using electricity transmission.