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Arizona Commissioner Probes Utility's Secret Funding of Anti-Solar Campaign 207

Posted by Soulskill
from the wrong-way-to-fight-the-power dept.
mdsolar writes "An Arizona utility commissioner is asking for all the key players in a debate over a solar energy policy in the state to reveal any additional secret funding of nonprofits or public relations campaigns. The probe comes after Arizona Public Service, the state's largest utility, admitted last week that it had been secretly contributing to outside nonprofits running negative ads against solar power. As The Huffington Post reported Friday, APS recently admitted that it had lied for months about paying the 60 Plus Association, a national conservative organization backed by the Koch brothers, to run ads against current solar net-metering policy. APS is currently pushing the Arizona Corporation Commission to roll back the policy, which allows homeowners and businesses with rooftop solar energy systems to make money by selling excess energy back to the grid. Solar proponents say that the policy has facilitated a solar boom in the state, and that changing it could have a huge negative impact on future growth."
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Arizona Commissioner Probes Utility's Secret Funding of Anti-Solar Campaign

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  • Its a shame. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Friday November 01, 2013 @09:59AM (#45300387)
    It is a shame that the solar debate is guided so heavily by politics. It is a shame that APS cannot have a public discussion regarding the negative side of solar projects without being bashed by politicians and a list of anti-everything groups that have no accountability. It is shame that APS feels the need to quietly support the dissemination of this information through indirect channels, and not be forthright about it when questioned.

    A key red flag in the article is the question of using 'ratepayer money'. That is a political ploy meant to inflame. The rate base is negotiated between the PUC and the utility based on a range of factors including cost of operation, capital needs and others. It also includes profit for the utility. There should be no restrictions on how the utility uses that profit. It is funny that nobody complains about money sources when APS finances an efficiency campaign. Let’s be honest, the outrage is simply the fact that the drawbacks of solar are being promulgated. Would these same politicians be outraged if this money went to a pro-solar entity? A climate exists where large utilities or other entities must publicly profess that solar is always wonderful or otherwise get labeled as money hungry evildoers.

    Facts are facts. Solar is clean, diverse, expensive and unreliable. There is a fit for it in the mix. There is also a point where it causes problems for the grid that will require significant waste or expense to alleviate. Growth must be managed properly to get the maximum benefit. In most cases, we could reduce environmental impact much more per dollar by investing in energy efficiency rather than solar. Unfortunately, that approach does not produce a visible "green" trophy. Installing solar thermal water heaters would yield much better financial and environmental returns than solar PV.

    Most residential solar units are installed by wealthier Americans who are taking advantage of huge tax incentives. Essentially, we are paying for much of their energy cost via our tax dollars. I find it amazing that some of the same folks who complain about the very wealthy are so willing to give them money in this manner.

    Solar has a place in our energy mix. Solar also has its drawbacks, and its OK to talk about them. Or is it an outrage?
    • Re:Its a shame. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:08AM (#45300465)

      Political ploy? If they charge that they should pay it, or damn near it. A utility should have severe restrictions, you get those when you are a monopoly. I would prefer if the lines were owned by the state and the power provided by many providers.

      It is fine to talk about them, it is not fine to fund FUD from far right wing groups.

      • Re:Its a shame. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:17AM (#45300547)

        What's interesting is that the Republicans here are showing their true colors, fighting against an independent populace when they want the populace to be heavily dependent on their corporate owners. Imagine the nerve of suggesting that people might not only live off the grid, they could invest their money in a means of production and then sell that product! Oh dear! If this continues, we might have unbridled capitalism, and where would Republicans be without corporate graft?

        • by khallow (566160) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:27AM (#45300645)

          Imagine the nerve of suggesting that people might not only live off the grid, they could invest their money in a means of production and then sell that product!

          It's not a market. The purchaser is forced by law to buy the power.

          • Re:Its a shame. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:35AM (#45300733)

            And you are forced by law to buy his power.

            I cannot turn off the electricity to my home without having it condemned. I cannot select another provider. I cannot buy power upfront for a lower cost.

            There is simply no real market activity for anyone in this arrangement.

            • Re:Its a shame. (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Skapare (16644) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:47AM (#45300813) Homepage

              And, the utility is forced to buy the power from it's customers at the same rate they sell power to them ... which means they cannot recover distribution costs or make at least some profit. Electric distribution utilities need to be able to buy the power at a lower price than they sell it.

              • Re:Its a shame. (Score:5, Insightful)

                by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday November 01, 2013 @11:39AM (#45301297)

                Then charge a distribution fee. The should buy and sell power at the same rate and only charge for infrastructure use.

                Utilities as they are monopolies the law forces me to buy from should not be for profit.

                • Then charge a distribution fee.

                  You haven't looked at your electric bill, have you? Here in PA, where we have electric choice, you can choose your electricity provider to get the best rate, BUT your electric company still charges you for distributing that power.

                  Those costs usually represent almost half your total bill.
                  • by h4rr4r (612664)

                    I have, and I fail to see how this is not a solution to the problem at hand.

                    I assumed AZ did not have such a fee if this was an issue for them.

                    • by Skapare (16644)

                      It can be part of the solution. But it also means the meters have to be changed, and people will get less money for the electricity they push into the network, or have to pay the distribution cost based on how much they push. And yes, generation cost and distribution cost is near 50/50. The old analog meters cannot do it, but most will just run backwards when power is pushed out (negative current/voltage ratio).

                      On a small scale, the solar feedback is not much of a deal because the power pushed out by one

                  • by Aighearach (97333)

                    Here in Oregon I pay more for delivery than for the electricity, and that is with a high quality public utility.

                    These anti-renewable PR campaigns are the only thing keeping most Americans from paying less for their power. Won't really change the delivery cost, though.

              • And the individual is forced to buy the power from the utility at the same rate they sell power to them ... which means they cannot recover distribution costs or make at least some profit. Individuals need to be able to buy the power at a lower price than they sell it.

                Why is it that utilities "need to be able to" profit, but not individuals?
            • by khallow (566160)

              And you are forced by law to buy his power.

              Not at all. You can always live off the grid.

              • by h4rr4r (612664)

                Then the city will condemn my house.

                I must have water and electric connection as well as some form of heat in the winter.

              • Re:Its a shame. (Score:5, Insightful)

                by cusco (717999) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ybxib.nairb>> on Friday November 01, 2013 @11:38AM (#45301285)

                Depends on local zoning. In some areas homes that are not connected to the power grid are considered 'uninhabitable', no matter how absurd that might be. That includes homes that are empty because the owners may be working overseas or who only occupy a vacation place a few months out of a year. My grandparents couldn't turn the electricity off to their house in Florida, even after they had definitively moved back to Michigan when she got sick, because they would not have been able to sell an 'uninhabitable' home for a fair market price.

        • by fche (36607)

          "they could invest their money in a means of production and then sell that product"

          If that product were sold at voluntary market rates, and its means of production were not grossly subsidized, all the more power to them. (Neither would be true around here in the great white up.)

        • Re:Its a shame. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:32AM (#45300685)

          Imagine the nerve of suggesting that people might not only live off the grid, they could invest their money in a means of production and then sell that product!

          In other words, people with excess solar capacity are small-business owners.

          To be fair, Republicans fully support small-business owners, unless they interfere with big business, or Conservative moral/social agendas, or a politician's chances of getting re-elected, or those people have anything to do with minorities, women, reproductive rights, sexual orientation ... Wait, what was I talking about again?

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by evilviper (135110)

            To be fair, Republicans fully support small-business owners

            Even with your list of exceptions... still no.

            Republicans give lip service to supporting small business owners, because the fascist things they want to do to funnel money to big businesses, can be disguised as possibly helping a few small businesses slightly, while big businesses get billions out of it. It's just a cover, and they have no intention of helping them out, at all.

          • by Xyrus (755017)

            Imagine the nerve of suggesting that people might not only live off the grid, they could invest their money in a means of production and then sell that product!

            In other words, people with excess solar capacity are small-business owners.

            To be fair, Republicans fully support small-business owners, unless they interfere with big business, or Conservative moral/social agendas, or a politician's chances of getting re-elected, or those people have anything to do with minorities, women, reproductive rights, sexual orientation ... Wait, what was I talking about again?

            Something about republicans being something along the lines of riding a mountain bike on bumpy terrain without a seat.

        • It's very impressive that you can discern someone's political leanings from their stance on a fundamentally mathematical question of how to best manage the power grid.

          Just looking at this without doing any deep research, I have to ask what compensation is APS going to receive for peaking power plants they presumably have installed to accommodate peak demands which will no longer be fully utilized ? Should the general population have to pay higher rates because a small percentage wanted to go solar ?

      • Political ploy?

        Noo... what makes you think that? [wsj.com]

    • Re:Its a shame. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CaptainLard (1902452) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:15AM (#45300529)
      The problem here is "APS recently admitted that it had _lied for months_ about paying the 60 Plus Association". Things may have been different if they'd just come out with their side of the story on why solar is bad. The way they went about it is indeed an outrage.
      • Things may have been different if they'd just come out with their side of the story on why solar is bad.

        Utilizing Solar energy may have issues, but I'd be hard pressed to describe it as "bad" - unless you're a fossil-fuel company. Perhaps, I'm misinformed, but all I can imagine is Mr. Mackey [urbandictionary.com] from South Park saying, "Solar energy is bad, m'kay."

        • by Skapare (16644)

          I'm all for using solar power. BUT ... This needs to be done in a sane way. The electrical distribution network is NOT designed for taking power from customers that were expected to buy it, at a volume greater than some small percentage, measured separately in various branches of the distribution. This is especially so for small single phase branches. And it needs to accommodate paying for the maintenance of the distribution network with at least some profit for the company running it. The latter probl

    • Re:Its a shame. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:18AM (#45300559)

      Using shills to push your agenda is not having a public discussion. If the folks at this company had wanted to participate OPENLY in the debate, that would be one thing. Instead they chose to use fronts to get away from the public eye.

      That invalidates their participation, as they are not honest, but instead deceitful. They can't be trusted now, nor can any of the claims made by their agents.

      We probably need to treat them like Enron, so that others learn a lesson from this. Be forthright.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "It is shame that APS feels the need to quietly support the dissemination of this information through indirect channels, and not be forthright about it when questioned."

      Pity the unfortunate wealthy businesses who feel the need to Astroturf, and pity the poor Slashdotters who confuse the need for debate with the need for Astroturfing.

      (weeps)

    • by baffled (1034554) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:42AM (#45300779)

      Facts are facts. Solar is clean, diverse, expensive and unreliable.

      Expensive? Get your facts straight.

      http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/capitalcost/ [eia.gov]
      Check out Table 1 from this report we paid for. Assuming the guys we paid to assemble the report did their jobs well, it shows capital costs and operational costs on-par or better than most forms of energy except natural gas.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Khyber (864651)

      "Facts are facts. Solar is clean, diverse, expensive and unreliable"

      You're absolutely wrong on the last two. The fucking sun rises and falls every day, that's goddamned reliable. Solar panels are so cheap that I could power my entire house (not including Air Conditioning) for $0.60/w or LOWER.

      "There is also a point where it causes problems for the grid that will require significant waste or expense to alleviate."

      What the hell are you talking about? Oh, you mean lower base loads? Guess what? To prevent the

      • Actually, that you mentioned inrush as having anything to do with this debate proves to me you do not know what you are talking about.

        Go and make up a bill of material for a solid, working, code compliant solar PV solution for your home, or get a quote on one that does not discount financial incentives, so we have a true cost, and then come back with a real argument.

        I am surprised that you have not already installed such a cheap solution. What are you waiting for?
        • by number17 (952777)

          get a quote on one that does not discount financial incentives

          When asking for such a request you should also provide your own quote for non-subsidized fossil fuel without subsidies. My source for Ontario says residential pricing would increase 35%:
          http://www.cleanairalliance.org/files/active/0/taxshift.pdf [cleanairalliance.org]

          The total dollar value of Table 1’s four remaining taxpayer financed subsidies for grid-supplied electricity is $4.785 billion per year. If these subsidies were to be immediately eliminated, electricity rates would rise by approximately 35%.

        • by Khyber (864651)

          "Go and make up a bill of material for a solid, working, code compliant solar PV solution for your home, or get a quote on one that does not discount financial incentives, so we have a true cost, and then come back with a real argument. "

          Already have, it's what runs my research facility. [tinypic.com] Not my home. I don't pay electricity bills (nor water, gas, or sewage,) that's included in the set monthly.

          And it didn't cost much at all to fit the research facility.

          Oh, and I do this internationally (that's my UK facility

    • The debate also has to encompass the cost of maintaining the transmission line infrastructure. Solar isn't this magic talisman that's going to furnish everyone's energy needs. Industrial energy needs are usually significantly higher than that of a house. What opponents of net-metering are worried about is the eventual death spiral where APS won't be able to afford to maintain the infrastructure. The question is: who sets the rates for energy purchase? Does the Corporation Commission decide what APS is

    • by Old97 (1341297)
      Yes, the use of the term "ratepayer money" is prejudicial and inflammatory as well as misleading. That's pretty typical with Slashdot and almost every other source on the internet. However, the primary objection expressed is that APS lied. I, and others, object that APS, Exxon, Koch brothers and others astroturf their positions, i.e. they set up phoney "citizen" organizations and sites to push their views so people will not be aware of their financial interests in the debate's outcome. That's dishonest a
    • by Bob9113 (14996)

      Let's be honest, the outrage is simply the fact that the drawbacks of solar are being promulgated.

      That is not honest. My displeasure with this is that they are funding intentional misrepresentation of solar. If the objective of 60 Plus were a more informed electorate, I would have no problem with it. It is not. Their approach is to distort perception in favor of a given viewpoint, because they know that is more cost effective than developing objectively informed skepticism. The problem is the propaganda, no

      • the tax incentives involved are a small portion of the total install cost.

        Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) = 30% of total cost. No small portion by any means.

    • It is an outrage, and possibly a crime.

      Utilities are monopolies and thus government regulated. Because everyone must purchase services from the utility, they have very stringent ethics rules of necessity. And trust me, if they HAD been contributing to liberal causes, politicians, especially conservative ones, would have been beside themselves with outrage.

      As for solar power itself, power utilities donâ(TM)t like them because they reduce utility profits, period. There is no real science behind their

    • I find it amazing that some of the same folks who complain about the very wealthy are so willing to give them money in this manner.

      I'm always on here lambasting the ultra-rich, but this is just disingenuous. While it's true that you won't see poor people putting solar panels on their house (mainly because they don't have a house), you don't have to be "very wealthy" by any reasonable person's measure to afford a PV installation. My parents have panels on their house, and they immigrated to this country with no money and no English, didn't have any higher education, worked clerical and truck driving jobs, and didn't win the lottery. The

    • this power company secretly funds political propaganda.

      I agree with their and your point of view that everyone connected to the grid should pay a fixed amount for upkeep and maintenance, regardless of how much they use. If people don't like it, they can go off the grid.

      And I can't even blame the company for spending money on spreading the word of that to the public. But why can't they set up a publicity campaign just publicize their point of view and put their name to it? After all ... it's a legitimate

  • by themushroom (197365) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:14AM (#45300517) Homepage

    Yeah, let's run a smear campaign against not only one of the cleanest forms of energy available, but the source most plentiful and free in that particular state. A utility should be getting onboard, not trying to harpoon something that could benefit them.

    • by rickb928 (945187)

      "most plentiful and free in that particular state"

      Except, perhaps, at night. See, there is one of the problems; Solar make sense when it;s available, but not when it isn't. Arizona is blessed with largely cloudless days, but the nights include half the peak demand, and so some other sources are needed alongside solar.

      And yes, this did seem like a troll right up the point where you are encouraged to look back at the solar claims; clean, available. Either of these have debatable points.

      Not that I care muc

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Solar thermal can run at night just fine.

        If night is half the demand of the daytime then you could have half your power via solar voltaics.

      • by PPH (736903)

        Except, perhaps, at night.

        And this is a problem with the buyback programs: The utility is expected to bear the cost of storing off peak power.

        The solution might be to separate energy and system infrastructure costs. And then assess a power storage charge against the solar installations (that don't have batteries plus smart grid coordination) for the power that they deliver when it can't be used.

        Solar energy could then incorporate intermediaries [wikipedia.org] who could buy, store and sell energy on the grid to match demand.

        • by Wookact (2804191)
          Why store it? They should produce less power using natural gas during the day, and then ramp it back up to needed levels as the sun goes down. Easy solution.
      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        There are tons of clean ways to do solar energy in a place like Arizona that provide power in off peak times, you don't have to be anywhere near as efficient when you're in a desert.

        The most obvious, even to a layman, is steam. Is this so hard to understand that you'd rather burn oil and coal.

        *sigh*... Humanity...

      • "most plentiful and free in that particular state"

        Except, perhaps, at night. See, there is one of the problems; Solar make sense when it;s available, but not when it isn't. Arizona is blessed with largely cloudless days, but the nights include half the peak demand, and so some other sources are needed alongside solar.

        And yes, this did seem like a troll right up the point where you are encouraged to look back at the solar claims; clean, available. Either of these have debatable points.

        Not that I care much for APS or SRP, as a customer of both I'd rather see them play fair, but no one is playing fair in this. NO ONE.

        I am so very tired of the lame old oil-sucker counter to solar power.

        I don't get my electricity from an oil company, I get it from an electric company. My local utility has the ability to generate power from about 4 different sources, depending on which ones are most economical at the time.

        If Arizona wants to get its some or all of its peak-demand (daytime) power from solar and revert to hamster-powered treadmills when the sun isn't available, what of it? If they can build smaller fossil-fuel plants or buy

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...all government funding and promotion for "green energy"? Especially since it seems to be almost entirely an exercise in crony capitalism and kickbacks for campaign donors.

    Government shouldn't be picking winners and losers in energy.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:27AM (#45300647)

      Fair enough, let's also withdraw all US military support from the Mid-East, all US protections for coal and oil production, as well as environmental immunities, let's stop eminent domain being used to allow the construction of pipelines and seaports used for fossil fuel production, and let's allow every individual to properly file suit against any corporation that has endangered them by the pollution of the Earth. Or heck, let's just stop protecting them from trespassing, vandalism and assault.

      Oh wait, you don't want to go for a real and true anarchy, but want to keep drawing your own arbitrary lines, conveniently protecting those you like, while excluding those you don't.

      Good-bye moral high ground.

      Sorry, but the government has long protected "non-green energy" and if you are going to insist on preventing crony capitalism and kickbacks, and don't want to pick winners and losers, you're going to have to make a real commitment to it, not a phony sham one that ignores the vast amount of protections and services received by the fossil fuel industry.

    • by number17 (952777)

      Government shouldn't be picking winners and losers in energy.

      Are you being paid-off? Why stop at only 20% of the kickbacks?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_subsidies [wikipedia.org]

      The global fossil fuel subsidies were $523 billion and renewable energy subsidies $88 billion in 2011.

  • Forcing utility companies to buy back energy will eventually bankrupt any electricity company. It forces all of the expenses of running their entire grid on a smaller and smaller pool of paying customers. Those customers would be businesses and the "renting" poor, and those unlucky enough not to be able to install solar. However, the electric grid as we know it should eventually become obsolete, as alternative energies such as solar take over. It will just be a complicated period of adjustment.
    • Not that I strictly disagree, but your whole post is a bare assertion of a future narrative, without any sort of substantiation.

    • Perhaps. If current trends continue, that may be a real problem for utility monopolies in 50 years or so. In the mean time the load shed of residential solar is doing a small part to help utilities avoid shelling out $billions for new power plants.
    • by rickb928 (945187)

      Eventually, perhaps, these net generators need to reconsider selling their excess at all, but banking it instead. Supercapacitors, better batteries, even underground pneumatic makes as much sense as selling to the utility and then buying it back in the evenings at a markup. At least, if solar installations make sense at all, then maximizing it makes sense in most cases.

      • The development of practical and cost effective local/distributed storage technology would greatly enhance the profile for solar and wind generated electricity. It would also enable the development of a truly "smart" grid. Thus far, those technologies fall short on cost and efficiency. We need to keep working on them.
      • Net metering gets settled up annually in most places. In Arizona, excess generation is compensated at the avoided cost rate, however much getting that free electricity reduced costs for the utility. This can be less than the market wholesale rate. A supercapacitor or anything else does not help with what to do with an annual excess. It might make the grid irrelevant though.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Only forcing them to buy it back at rate can ever do that. But they need to be forced to buy it back at a significant percentage of rate or it's bullshit

      • It is bullshit. They buy back power for a tiny fraction of the price they sell it, just enough that it makes more sense to sell the energy to them than to bleed it off through a resistor bank.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      The simple solution is to uncouple maintenance and power costs. Let the state own and maintain the grid while many providers including individuals with panels provide power.

      • by PPH (736903)

        This is what will happen. But keep this in mind: A significant portion of your per/kWh charge is actually covering utilities fixed costs. It differs between regions, but I live in the Pacific Northwest and energy/fuel costs are a very small portion of my utilities operating costs.

        Now imagine a rate structure where I pay for my fixed costs separately from my energy costs. The energy portion would drop to near zero and my motivation to conserve it would do so as well. Fixed costs would depend on my peak cons

        • by Ichijo (607641)

          Now imagine a rate structure where I pay for my fixed costs separately from my energy costs. The energy portion would drop to near zero and my motivation to conserve it would do so as well.

          If the costs of all negative externalities were included in the rates, then you would voluntarily conserve without any social engineering.

          Correcting market failures is always good for the economy, despite what those who oppose carbon taxes would have you believe.

        • by cusco (717999)

          PSE is doing a shit job of maintaining their infrastructure, too. They've cut back on inspections, tree trimming, maintenance operations, and farmed out almost all the new construction to low-bid contractors. On the other hand, I worked for the Snohomish PUD for a while, and the difference between the Public Utility District's power line right-of-way and Puget Sound Energy's is obvious just driving by.

      • by medv4380 (1604309)
        Yes, lets repeat the energy deregulation that California did. That worked out great for everyone didn't it?
      • Yep, it's essentially the same conflict of interest as allowing cable & telco companies to maintain infrastructure and provide content.

      • by number17 (952777)
        In Ontario we pay more in the short-term because of the de-coupling, but in the long term it will do as you say.
        http://www.canadaenergy.ca/index.php?hydro=competition&direct=act&electricity=1998 [canadaenergy.ca]

        The Electricity Act guaranteed:

        • an open wholesale electricity market
        • retail choice at the consumer level offered by retailers such as Canada Energy Wholesalers Ltd.
        • access to the power transmission grid for new competitors in generation
    • by slashmydots (2189826) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:49AM (#45300827)
      That's not exactly how it works. First of all, the industrial grade inverter to supply energy back to the grid cleanly is about $2000 on the low end. Secondly, practically nobody has an array big enough to have a net gain where they actually get a check from the electric company. Maybe their electric bill went from $200 to $100 but to go -$100 is pretty unheard of. Third, the buyback rate is structured so that even if the company turned their power plant completely off because 10,000 private solar array owners were sufficient to power the entire local grid, they'd be paying out about what it would cost to run the power plant. In other words, there's still a profit built in.
    • You'd be right, if not for the fact that utilities pay laughably low prices for bought-back energy. Prices they can change at a whim.

      They're in no danger of being bankrupted.

    • by lgw (121541)

      My water bill is 80% fixed infrastructure cost (and/or PUC graft) and 20% usage. There's no reason not to do electrical billing the same way. Pay a fixed monthly amount to cover infrastructure (based on the size of the bribes to whoever decides the amount), then a usage amount on top of that. That way folks on solar with net 0 usage, but who depend on the grid for power at night, would still pay.

  • I suppose I'm not too surprised, but wow. All that is missing is a mustache twirling villain rubbing his hands together as he chuckles maniacally.
  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Friday November 01, 2013 @11:09AM (#45301011)

    The Tea baggin' Koch Bros... [motherjones.com]

    "The utility, the Arizona Public Service Company (APS), outed itself as a funder of two secretive nonprofits fueling the anti-solar fightâ"and revealed that it had funneled its anti-solar money through a political operative associated with the Koch brothers and their donor network."

    • That family is starting to look like a bad Satan parody. What next, secretly funding child slavery rings for hamster wheel electrical generators?

  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Friday November 01, 2013 @11:34AM (#45301235)

    Net-Metering doesn't make money for the property owner. The Net of the front of that means that at the end of the year if you generate excess power (vs what you used when the sun didn't shine) the balance is wiped to zero and the utility doesn't pay you a cent.

    What this means is that solar panels generate power during peak usage when commercial power rates are the highest, the home owner typically buys power at night when rates are the lowest. The net-metering means the meter spins backwards during the day. If at the end of the year the meter is less than when the year started the balance is zeroed and they start over. If it's positive the homeowner cuts a check for the amount.

    The debate is that as solar power use grows the people using with zero bills aren't paying any maintenance dollars to support upkeep of the grid. Right now power rates combine generation and grid maintenance costs in one per/kw number.

    The counterpoint is that the number of people at zero is INCREDIBLY small because any excess capacity is handed to the power utility for nothing.

    The reality is that as the number of people at or near zero increases, the system needs to adjust to separate power costs and grid maintenance. The solution the utility wants, is to end net-metering, the solution that should be implemented is a fixed line minimum grid maintenance fee (either monthly or yearly). It should be noted that the utility is mostly opposed to this because it would mean they would have to actually disclose what grid maintenance costs and what power costs. And of course the astro-turfed opposition is funded by the two largest private owners of hydrocarbon based energy in the US.

  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Friday November 01, 2013 @11:36AM (#45301259) Homepage Journal
    The Arizona net metering policy is already very protective of utilities' interests. http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=AZ24R&re=1&ee=0 [dsireusa.org]

    System size can't be larger that 125% of a customer's normal use and customer/generators only get paid at the avoided cost rate, not the retail rate for power generated beyond their annual use.

    In New Mexico, First Solar is selling power at 5.79 cents a kilowatt-hour http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-01/first-solar-may-sell-cheapest-solar-power-less-than-coal.html [bloomberg.com] so it seems hard to believe that this campaign is anything but a way for the Koch brothers to shake down APS.
    • System size can't be larger that 125% of a customer's normal use

      Over what period? In the long run it might be worth it to leave some AC units running in an open garage for the month before you set up your panels...tell your EV-owning friends they can charge at your place too ;-)

  • by slickrockpete (868056) on Friday November 01, 2013 @11:42AM (#45301331)

    There's a similar campaign against wind power in general going on in Idaho. I've only really seen billboards with vague questions associating wind power projects so corruption and insider deals, but it is pretty obviously a political campaign to stir up ill will in the voting public.

    As if the utilities never made any corrupt or insider deals.

    The way public utilities were originally set up was intended to deal with a regulated structural monopoly and keep a fair balance between ratepayers and the "owners" of the infrastructure. Since laissez-faire capitalism has been the fashion for the last 30 years the utility commisions have been packed with insiders and had any regulatory teeth taken away. Thank you Saint Ronnie of Alzheim.

  • My comment is regarding net metering in general not specifically as it applies to solar. This is a bigger issue; it's not just with solar that net metering comes into play. I know someone who has a factory and a hydroelectric plant. He sells the energy to the electric company and buys it back at a very small markup. "If you make extra power the electric company is bound by law to buy it." I see no reason to change this; its simply common sense and it applies to more than just solar. These rules have been ar
  • by Alomex (148003) on Friday November 01, 2013 @01:58PM (#45302985) Homepage

    Around here we saw a similar astroturf campaign agains wind power. Call in radio shows were full of irate "farmers" complaining against wind mills. I spent a week in the region talking to actual farmers and they were all in favor of wind mills. They average farmer here earns somewhere between $30K-100K of rental income from the windmill companies and they couldn't be more thrilled about it.

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