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They're trying to slow the adoption of solar energy through lawmakers

Utility companies around the U.S. fear that solar companies and renewable energy incentives will replace traditional electricity.

According to a report from The New York Times, utility companies view rooftop solar energy as a threat to their traditional business model of providing electricity maintaining the grid.

In fact, some utilities have said that they should've fought the solar "disrupt" and are currently working to push back against government incentives for the renewable energy. 

The utility companies' worries may seem a little ridiculous at present, considering rooftop solar energy alone accounts for less than a quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s power generation. 

However, incentives around the country aim to expand the use of solar power in a big way. For instance, California has a system called net metering, which pays both commercial and residential customers for their excess renewable energy that they sell back to utilities. California pays customers very well through this credit system because the payments are bound to daytime retail rates that customers pay for electricity -- such as utility costs to maintain the grid. 

NYT reports that from 2010 to 2012, the amount of solar installed each year has increased by 160 percent.

At present, 43 states, the District of Columbia and four territories offer incentives for renewable energy in some form or another. 

Solar proponents add that solar customers deserve payment and incentives for their efforts because making more power closer to where it is used (when resold to local utility companies) can alleviate stress on the grid -- making it reliable. It also helps utilities by relieving them from having to build infrastructure and sizable generators. 

However, utility companies feel differently. Their argument is that solar customers, at some point, may stop paying for electricity, which means they also stop paying for the grid. This shifts the costs to other non-solar customers. 

According to California's three major utility companies, they could lose as much as $1.4 billion in annual revenue to solar customers when the state's subsidy program fills up to full capacity. This means that about 7.6 million non-soalr customers would have to make up for that, paying as much as $185 per year each. 

This leads to something utility companies call the "death spiral." This refers to the costs being shifted to non-solar customers, and because of this burden, they switch to solar-powered rooftops -- making utility companies' troubles even worse. 

For that reason, utilities have requested that lawmakers limit those who can participate in such programs, including net metering. 

Some utility companies are adding rooftop solar to their services, such as Dominion in Virginia. But not all are willing to adapt, and while solar still only amounts to a small percentage of power generation in the U.S., it seems utilities are looking to prevent the renewable energy emergence from spreading. 

Source: The New York Times



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RE: Survival of the Fittest
By FaaR on 7/31/2013 5:28:20 PM , Rating: 3
No need to limit credits or incentives, you just separate the cost of electricity and that of building and maintaining the grid on the bills sent out to consumers.

That way, even if you produce excess electricity (fat chance for most regular people really, unless you got half an acre of solar cells squirreled away somewhere), you still contribute towards grid upkeep.


RE: Survival of the Fittest
By 91TTZ on 7/31/2013 5:37:06 PM , Rating: 3
But what if you don't need the grid? Should you be forced to help pay for a private company's infrastructure upkeep? They're going to need that cost subsidized somehow. If it's not subsidized, then people who can't afford solar panels will pay exorbitant costs for electricity because all the grid maintenance will be wrapped up into their bills.

In my opinion, it sucks for them but people who don't even use the grid shouldn't have to pay for its upkeep.


RE: Survival of the Fittest
By jimbojimbo on 7/31/2013 5:49:52 PM , Rating: 3
People who don't use the grid can have themselves completely cut off. However, that also means they'll have to have batteries sufficient enough to last them through the night as well as wind turbines since solar alone won't be able to keep it up.
The best top is to have the solar and wind turbine with some battery backups, in case of outages, but still have a grid to fall back on in case the batteries get drained.
Really we already pay for the service then pay per amount used so maybe in the future they will just raise the base service cost.


RE: Survival of the Fittest
By Spuke on 7/31/2013 6:43:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
but still have a grid to fall back on in case the batteries get drained
Off grid setups use generators as backups. You can charge batteries and run the hose at the same time. And home generators don't cost much either. I'd love to go off grid energy-wise but it's very expensive to do so. If you're a certified electrician it can be done pretty cheap. 10 235W solar panels can be had for $1500.


RE: Survival of the Fittest
By jimbojimbo on 8/1/2013 11:03:58 AM , Rating: 2
True. I guess it also depends on where you live since during the winter months pulling from the grid is still significantly cheaper than running a generator.


RE: Survival of the Fittest
By Spuke on 8/1/2013 12:47:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I guess it also depends on where you live since during the winter months pulling from the grid is still significantly cheaper than running a generator.
If you're going to go grid-tie than you don't need a big whopping solar setup IMO. Here in CA all you need is enough to put you in the lowest tier where the cheapest per kWh electricity rates are. A bit OT but the wife and I are currently looking at wind generators and a 10kW one would would take care of almost two houses (with our usage). We don't need something that big (and expensive). 4-5kW would work just fine.


RE: Survival of the Fittest
By ammaross on 8/1/2013 5:32:07 PM , Rating: 2
You'll also want to figure out the true output of your panels vs the rated wattage. We have an array of 24 240W panels here at my office and I can watch the power generation over a day, month, etc. Early morning (10am) on a clear day, each panel provides barely over 100W. They do peak up to ~180-230 by 2pm, then back down to 80W by 6pm. Point? You won't run at "235W" from sun-up to sun-down, thus any solar panel system you plan to build needs produce enough power over the daylight hours to fulfill your peak 24hr period (or as much as your willing if you don't plan to have batteries or grid backup).


RE: Survival of the Fittest
By Spuke on 8/1/2013 6:47:09 PM , Rating: 2
Yep, I already know that. I have some small solar setups on my RV and my barn.


RE: Survival of the Fittest
By JediJeb on 8/1/2013 3:54:53 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
But what if you don't need the grid? Should you be forced to help pay for a private company's infrastructure upkeep? They're going to need that cost subsidized somehow. If it's not subsidized, then people who can't afford solar panels will pay exorbitant costs for electricity because all the grid maintenance will be wrapped up into their bills. In my opinion, it sucks for them but people who don't even use the grid shouldn't have to pay for its upkeep.


I don't think anyone who is completely off the grid should have to pay upkeep. But if they are putting their excess power back into the grid then they must be connected to it and should be contributing to the upkeep as whether you are drawing from, or pushing power to the grid, you still rely on the grid to be maintained.


RE: Survival of the Fittest
By Shadowself on 7/31/2013 6:32:18 PM , Rating: 5
Already done is some areas.

A friend of mine finished his new "solar powered" house about a year or so ago. He even now owns two Leaf cars. On a good day he powers everything from heating/air-conditioning to hot water to appliances to his cars plus sells back to the grid all from his rooftop solar systems.

He's connected to the grid too.

When it rains for a long period or is extremely cloudy for a very long period he pulls off the grid. When it was a nice, sunny fall or spring day he was pumping power back into the grid at extreme rates.

His bill is broken into multiple parts: base fee for the connection to the grid, off peak rate and peak rate(s).

He averaged, over the past year, zero energy bought from his local utility. He was so proud of his first year results he had to drag a large number of his friends through the design details and power billings.

However, he still had to pay a base rate every month in order to maintain the connection and convenience of being able to connect to the grid and pull from it when necessary. That base fee is effectively the cost to maintain the grid even if he does not draw from it. If that base rate were to even be five times what it is today, he'd still be OK with paying it for the convenience and assurance of having that backup, nearly infinite reserve energy source --- and according to him, his total energy purchase costs would still be less than before he tore down the original house and rebuilt it. Plus he has no solar panels on his garage giving an area for future growth.

Would most of us want to live in such an optimized design? Probably not. The house looks a bit odd as the roof lines and windows (and even the huge wall filled with phase change material to stabilize indoor temperatures) are a bit beyond the aesthetics most of us can support. But it works from him, and it will likely work for many others in the future.

The bottom line is that no matter how much power he makes he still has to pay the base fee just to connect to the grid.


RE: Survival of the Fittest
By RU482 on 8/2/2013 5:39:41 PM , Rating: 2
did he every say how much his system cost, before and after incentives?


RE: Survival of the Fittest
By Shadowself on 7/31/13, Rating: 0
RE: Survival of the Fittest
By Samus on 7/31/2013 8:55:32 PM , Rating: 3
I love how electric companies are all for incentives and credits for EV's, but are against incentives for renewable energy. A little hippocratic, especially when you consider these same utilities long lobbied for deregulation under the condition they "weren't in the electricity sales business, but the electricity delivery business." Well if that were true, why do you care about solar power? 99% of people with solar panels will still be hooked up to the grid, likely selling you back some power here and there. So all the sudden they do care about more than maintaining the connection to the grid...


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