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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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Problems and solutions
By Motoman on 8/1/2013 10:52:57 AM , Rating: 2
The nation's electrical grid is obviously one of our most important social/civil assets - granted that it's in need of a massive overhaul anyway.

There are similarities and differences to other issues that some people see as being the same thing - I've heard people assert that it's like people buying EVs as opposed to ICE cars.

Putting solar panels up does get you incentives, just like buying an EV...which winds up increasing the burden on people who don't buy solar panels/EVs. So that's a very similar concern.

Having solar though (or wind, for that matter) means that at peak generation you can sell your extra energy back to the utility...can't do any such thing with an EV. So...not the same.

What's hilarious with EVs is watching those people justify getting their tax incentives while at the same time screaming bloody murder about plans to tax EVs to collect the tax funds that aren't gotten via fuel taxes. Which supports keeping our roads and bridges in functional condition. EV people want to shift tax burden to non-EV people via their tax incentive, *and* also don't want to pay their fair share of taxes to support our road infrastructure. THAT might not really correlate to solar/wind power homeowners that balk at paying grid support fees.

Why? Well...in virtually all cases, if you put up wind/solar at your place, you're going to be pulling from the grid at certain times. The only way you could avoid that would be to put in place generators or something else to ensure you have power during darkness/no-wind times. Also, when you're selling your excess power generation back onto the grid...you're using the grid. To make a profit. So...you should be paying to keep the grid together.

The only case in which a solar/wind person could justify not paying any grid support fees at all would be if they were well and truly disconnected from the grid. Which is by no means impossible...it's just highly unlikely. Being disconnected from the grid means that you have either all the power storage/generation capacity you need to keep yourself independently in power at all times, or that maybe you're OK with having no power on a regular basis. In that case I could see someone with a valid complaint against having to pay grid fees.

There's no way that there's an analog there for EV owners though who think they're magically entitled to pay no road-use taxes. One doesn't buy an EV to simply store in the garage. You're going to drive your EV. On the road. And you're going to cause wear and tear on that road just like every other vehicle on the planet. Therefore, unless you can somehow describe and certify how you're going to own an EV and *never* drive it on publicly-funded roads, you have no right to complain about any road-use tax that comes up for EV owners. Not the same as solar/wind.




RE: Problems and solutions
By bsd228 on 8/1/2013 8:31:07 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Putting solar panels up does get you incentives, just like buying an EV...which winds up increasing the burden on people who don't buy solar panels/EVs. So that's a very similar concern.


If enough people install solar panels to avoid the billion dollar expenses of new power plants, that's a pretty big burden removed for "everyone else." Day time is still peak power draw by far and plant capacity has to be able to meet it, even though that's only for 8-10 hours of the day. It's also nearly the same as peak generation for solar panels, so the two go together very well. EV vehicles may shift the balance, or they may just take up the slack capacity in the middle of the night, esp via the smart chargers that know when to run.

quote:
There's no way that there's an analog there for EV owners though who think they're magically entitled to pay no road-use taxes. One doesn't buy an EV to simply store in the garage. You're going to drive your EV. On the road. And you're going to cause wear and tear on that road just like every other vehicle on the planet.


Wear and tear is a function of weight. Lightweight EVs don't cause much at all. Regular 3-4000lb ones are just like every other sedan - still minimal. SUVs of any time do much more. Commercial trucks do the lion's share.

Many of the proposals to tax EVs were too stupid to even make it to proposal stage. Anything relying on mileage counters to collect 40-100/year would just waste most of the money on the collection effort. So a flat amount appended to car registration makes the most sense, but the values I've seen proposed presume that person is driving 12000 miles (or more per year), which seems to overtax the EV side.

And of course, let's not forget that gas taxes are a tiny portion of the money spent on road infrastructure.


"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson














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