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Wed Aug 26, 2015, 12:50 PM

5 Reasons Utilities Are Hating on Their Solar-Producing Customers

5 Reasons Utilities Are Hating on Their Solar-Producing Customers
John Farrell
Aug 24, 2015

It seems crazy that electric companies would have anything against customers that spend their own money to reduce their energy use with clean, local solar power. But any number of utilities are slapping excessive fees and charges on customers with solar to slow or stop them. Here's 5 reasons why...

1. Utilities Don’t View Customer-Owned Solar Power as a Resource
mn value of solar v costMost utilities see a solar array on a customer rooftop the same as they see an energy efficient refrigerator. It means the customer buys less electricity. In some states, policies called “decoupling” tend to hold utilities harmless to these sales losses in order to encourage more investment in cost-effective energy efficiency. But with solar, utilities tend to ignore the benefits that this energy provides to the electricity system unless someone tells them to account for it.

Read a utility integrated resource plan (their 15-year plan for the electric grid), and you can see an electric utility wax eloquent about a shiny new 100 megawatt power plant that could provide energy during peak energy periods with zero fuel cost. But if instead of a big utility-built power plant we’re talking about 10,000 individual solar arrays on customer rooftops, utilities lose all perspective.

In Minnesota, for example, the state legislature passed a “value of solar” program that requires the state’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, to calculate how much solar energy is worth to its grid. In 2014 and 2015, the utility has reported that the value of solar energy is higher than the cost to the utility in buying it from customers via net metering. Other studies have shown similar results, including one in Maine, in Missouri, and in many other states.

Faced with compelling evidence of the value of customer-produced solar power, why haven’t utilities come around?

2. The Utility Business Model Seems Broken


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Response to kristopher (Original post)

Wed Aug 26, 2015, 01:02 PM

1. I'd love to become more "solar dependant". I've got these on my "wish list" at amazon:

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Response to kristopher (Original post)

Wed Aug 26, 2015, 02:39 PM

2. Basically, the utilities want to make just as much profit as they are right now, and


solar energy disrupts that. This should have been planned for, years ago.
Now, since the utility companies cannot charge for access to sunlight, they will be doing their damnedest to make using solar energy too expensive for customers, until they can figure out how to get control of solar energy. One state, I believe, actually introduced legislation that makes homeowners buy all of their own electricity back at retail rates, thus freeing the power company from actually producing electricity, but making a profit off of electricity they did not produce. Nice work if you can get it, eh? This is the Kochs' ALEC at work.

Looks obvious to me that the days of the huge and relatively fragile grid might be winding down. That grid is susceptible to weather, hackers, age, squirrels, terrorists. As the cost of solar panels and solar storage come down, I think those huge grids are going to be obsolete. And investors should start planning their investments to account for that.

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Response to djean111 (Reply #2)

Wed Aug 26, 2015, 06:33 PM

3. Yep. They say it is about the services they provide to solar costing other ratepayers, but

...actually it is entirely about the effect on profits and return for investors.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #3)

Wed Aug 26, 2015, 06:42 PM

4. What is frightening is that if we now have "trade" agreements that let corporations sue


countries/entities over regulations that may impact profits, and we have things like privatized prisons that mandate being paid for empty "beds" that lower profits - how far are we from utilities getting a guaranteed profit even if they are not actually producing electricity?

It is like investing is no longer a gamble. Losses are socialized and profits are privatized. Las Vegas could only dream of a sweet setup like corporations are getting today.
This is what we are heading for, with our corporate government.

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