Hutto homeowner pushes to see more education and legislation protecting solar panel customers

The switch to solar is an important part of the future of energy in Texas.

But as it gains popularity, one Hutto resident is sharing his story after seeing his monthly bill skyrocket.

When Ben Frascona got solar panels, his bill averaged out to about $30 a month.

"That's why I did it," said Frascona. 

But that low price tag didn't last for him.

"I understand that there are going to be times where I have to pay a little money out of my own pocket, but if they're going to push green energy, make it available at a good cost for the consumer," said Frascona. 

Frascona said he signed up for a 1:1 net metering policy with Green Mountain Energy.

For every kilowatt he produced, he'd get a credit back, which could roll over to future bills.

That's what made solar panels so affordable for him.

That is, until June 2023.

"I found out on a bill," said Frascona. "I noticed it was going up, and when I called Green Mountain and inquired about it, they said there was a policy change and that I could end my contract early with no penalty."

Green Mountain Energy said it would have notified the customer of the change. Below is the full statement the company sent FOX 7 Austin:

"Thank you for bringing this customer’s inquiry to our attention. We would need the customer’s account information to investigate his current contract terms and whether they differ from the terms of his prior contract. Either way, Green Mountain Energy would have provided the customer with notice of the type of changes you described. 

Green Mountain Energy has several competitive solar buy-back plans that give consumers credit for excess renewable energy produced by their solar panel system. When customers sign up for a Renewable Rewards buy-back plan at Green Mountain Energy, they not only receive 100% clean electricity but also save on energy costs with bill credits and shrink their carbon footprint, too."

But this new cost forced Frascona to look at other companies before quickly realizing Green Mountain wasn't alone in policy changes.

"About the first quarter of 2023, all the electric companies changed their policies where they either got rid of their buyback program altogether, or they would max out the kilowatt-hours that they would give you credit for, and it changed monthly, sometimes daily," said Frascona. 

He switched to Just Energy a few months after learning about Green Mountain Energy’s change, but the cost is still higher than his original 1:1 plan.

His monthly bill is now on average six times higher, at $200.

In March, he said his bill hit an all-time high of $500.


"Everybody's pushing green energy. Let's help the environment," said Frascona.  "Well, what about helping the people who spend the money to put a system like this up?"

That frustration turned into a push for education on solar panels.

"I want people to be aware of what they're getting into when they have a solar system and what the changes are," said Frascona. "I want the politicians to do something for the individual, for the consumers."

He said he'd love to see more companies go back to the original 1:1 net metering policy,

But he also wants to see laws protecting solar customers too, like capping pricing points for people relying on social security.

"Legislation needs to be out there to protect the consumer, and it just isn't there," said Frascona. 

The federal government recently launched a Solar For All program.

Texas is expected to receive more than $400 million for panels and batteries for low-income homes, which could help the state power grid.

FOX 7 Austin also reached out to Just Energy but has not heard back.