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Why Aren’t Those Solar Panels Reducing My Electric Bill?

By Rick Pearson, Principal, Cresa Los Angeles

Everyone is looking for ways to incorporate energy saving-technology into their lives. Solar energy is now an excellent, viable option, especially for commercial buildings:   most commercial roofs are flat, above the trees, and provide an undisturbed, spacious area for the panels. Naturally, we are going to see more and more roofs covered with solar panels, which will bring the cost of electricity down for the occupants of those buildings, right?

Maybe not.

Many owners are renting their roofs to third parties who install solar panels and sell the power directly to the power grid, with zero benefit to the power meter (and hence, the tenants) of the building that hosts the panels. If you are a tenant in such a building and pay for your electricity, you might assume that your utility bill would be reduced.   Or, at least, that you could install your own panels at some point to help lower your usage?

But once the third-parties’ panels are installed there will likely be no room for additional ones. Therefore, even though you pay the cost of your electrical usage, the landlord has taken away any hope you may have for directly reducing your costs by installing your own panels.  The landlord may tell you “I own the building, I can do what I want with it,” and while this may be true, it doesn’t seem fair.

I’m not bringing up this issue to alarm you, or taking a position on your landlord’s right to do it. I just want you to be informed if it happens to you.

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