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Power The Almighty Buck Technology

Arizona Approves Grid-Connection Fees For Solar Rooftops 363

Posted by timothy
from the that's-just-the-solar-cover-charge dept.
mdsolar writes with this excerpt from Bloomberg News: "Arizona will permit the state's largest utility to charge a monthly fee to customers who install photovoltaic panels on their roofs, in a closely watched hearing that drew about 1,000 protesters and may threaten the surging residential solar market. The Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in the state, agreed in a 3-to-2 vote at a meeting [Thursday] in Phoenix that Arizona Public Service Co. may collect about $4.90 a month from customers with solar systems. Arizona Public is required to buy solar power from customers with rooftop panels, and the commission agreed with its argument that the policy unfairly shifts some of the utility's costs to people without panels. Imposing a fee designed to address this issue may prompt power companies in other states to follow suit, and will discourage some people from installing new systems, according to the Sierra Club."
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Arizona Approves Grid-Connection Fees For Solar Rooftops

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:41AM (#45442541)

    I'm OK with a grid connection fee. It is reasonable.

    However, I am not OK with some other policies that I have seen, such as no buyback for excess generation. Or, as in my case, the policy is such that regardless of how much excess generation you pump into the grid, there will NEVER be a net on the bill. The bill will always be at least ~$30 even if I pump 20MW of excess generation back into the grid.

    It really pisses me off. But, luckily, the state commission just approved another rate hike that "will benefit consumers".

  • by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:45AM (#45442565) Homepage

    If you have solar panels and don't want to sell your excess back to the utility then don't . But don't try to pretend that you don't make use of the grid when you do. The public utility has been forced to buy your excess energy at above market rates thus pushing up costs to everyone. Stop crying about being treated like a wholesale power supplier.

  • Re:what cost (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:49AM (#45442581) Homepage

    Surely they should be penalizing those who don't have solar panels.

    The way to cut costs is to remove the need for utilities.

  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @11:38AM (#45442855) Homepage

    > It's not costing them money in infrastructure; that is still being paid for by all its customers - including those using solar power

    So lets say I put up exactly the number of panels that net meters me to zero on a yearly basis.

    Due to night, seasonality, weather, etc, that means that what's actually going on is that I'm exporting major quantities of power during the day, and then buying from the grid those other times. So it's not like I'm not using the infrastructure just as much as the guy next to me that doesn't have panels. In fact, I'm using it more.

    Yet because my bill is zero, I'm paying less than him as a function of maintaining the grid. It shouldn't be that way, but it is.

    The contrary argument is equally interesting. Let's say I don't put up that many panels, but just one of them. That produces about the same amount of power that my fridge uses daily. So in fact, there is exactly zero difference between putting up a panel, and buying a new energy star fridge. Both of those will have the exact same effect on my total use of the grid. Yet in one I will now be charged $4.90 a month, and the other I won't.

    The actual problem here is that some of the grid cost is buried in the electricity rate. If they truly separated the two, then this problem wouldn't have existed in the first place. However, that is likely on the order of hundreds of dollars a month. For the average user the cost would be identical in the end, one line on the bill would go up and another down. However, for people who sip power, or turn it off completely (at the cottage in the winter), their bills will go way up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @11:42AM (#45442881)

    the fee which is paid for by your neighbors whom are paying for the power the utility bought at wholesale from you the solar producer, and the ultility marks up 500%? Plus the additional $8 a month "customer fee" for the pleasure of being hooked to the grid? Oh and plus the massive subsidies given to the utilities by the government? Those poor utilities certainly can not afford to upgrade their infrastructure without feeding at the government trough.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @12:21PM (#45443083)

    That isn't possible here, because to share power among the members of the coop, you need electric transmission lines, and towers to hold them up, which means you need land, right-of-way, etc. You can only get that with the government's blessing, and they've already given that blessing to the local power utility monopoly. They're not going to give it to someone else, because the whole point of a utility monopoly is that you only need one set of infrastructure because it's infeasible to have dozens of sets of transmission lines running all over, so you give one company a monopoly for this, and have them regulated by the government so they don't go nuts with their monopoly. The government can't give other companies the same rights because then they'd be admitting they're doing a poor job in their capacity as regulators.

  • Re:Lots of costs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trepidity (597) <.gro.hsikcah. .ta. .todhsals-muiriled.> on Saturday November 16, 2013 @12:51PM (#45443243)

    You can see that most clearly with someone who ends up at a net 0 kWh usage. Even though they send power both directions over the lines, since line maintenance is paid for by a portion of the per-kWh fee, and they use net-zero, they don't pay any line maintenance.

    One possibility would be to break out line maintenance into a separate fee, and charge it on gross bidirectional, rather than net volume. But then you'd need the meters to work differently. Just charging a flat monthly fee for feed-in customers is a way of approximating it for typical-sized users.

  • Re:Lots of costs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by green1 (322787) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:08PM (#45443337)

    Maybe US power companies are more generous than Canadian ones, but I can tell you the big reason I haven't gone solar is because I wouldn't get out of those fees. I pay 8c/kwh (sounds reasonably cheap) yet 400kwh/month seems to work out to over $100 (interesting math...) basically the bill is full of connection fees, distribution fees, administrative fees, generation fees, etc. which are all separate from the cost of electricity of 8c/kwh.
    End result is that although I could net meter and reduce my liability on that 8c/kwh, even getting it down to zero wouldn't drop my bill by enough to be worth it. The only way it would actually make sense to go solar around here would be to also go off grid, which adds a lot of expense and kills any incentive.

    As for this $4 fee... last I heard, our electric company had a program where you could buy solar sells from them and net-meter, their admin fee (on top of everything else) was over $30/month... so I don't see why people complain about $4!

  • Re:what cost (Score:3, Interesting)

    by whistlingtony (691548) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:17PM (#45443403)

    I don't see what this has to do with Obama.... ? Or are you saying that the opinion that there should be penalties for those who don't have solar panels is Obama Like? (Fuck I wish...)

    As for the global warming denying... Assuming that global warming isn't real(it is though), you might get farther with politeness instead of calling us scum.

    The bad news is, whatever you believe, the earth is getting warmer, and we are going to have to deal with the consequences. I wish you'd help instead of sitting in the corner scream about Obamasitic Lies.

  • Re:what cost (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dave562 (969951) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:25PM (#45443447) Journal

    They have to manage the power. The grid has a finite capacity and they have to adjust the amount of power that they buy and/or generate to balance out the new influx of power coming from the residential customers.

    I used to consult (IT) for a company that ran a couple of power plants. There are many factors to consider. It is not as simple as "Plug in, turn on, start getting paid."

    Simple example. House in Arizona with solar panels. Family leaves for the day, power goes back to the grid. Family is home on the weekend, they need the power. Family goes on vacation, they don't need to the power. Family is at home, again, they need the power. The demand fluctuates. As the market increases, as more and more people start selling power to the utility, the management challenge increases.

    I am not sure how home solar works, but with power plants, if you are generating, the utility has to find some place to put that power. Either use it locally, or transfer it elsewhere. If you are not generating, the utility has to make up for the shortfall.

  • by whistlingtony (691548) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:27PM (#45443469)

    People in the 'States scream about Big Government...

    Oddly enough in most of Europe, with their big government that actually regulates industry, you see MORE competition in broadband, in cell service. Weird. Almost like businesses get too huge, start monopolistic practices, and NEED to be wacked with a stick once in a while.

    Remember folks, there's a world outside the USA, and it works pretty well for a lot of things. Our culture/economy/law is not a universal Truth for the world.

  • Utility costs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Firethorn (177587) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @02:33PM (#45443871) Homepage Journal

    After all the fixed costs of connecting each house is the same.

    Not really, especially when you get into the back-end. This gets complicated, I'm not an expert, I mostly worry about field capacity, stability, and such using generators in remote locations.

    Somebody who merely uses less electricity isn't as much of a load on the electric lines as somebody who puts solar lines up, as aaarrrgggh mentions.

    That's because, just like roads, while there's a fixed component to just having a line somewhere, there's also costs associated with sizing the lines based on maximum load and costs based on wear&tear on actually shipping the power. Most electric equipment is high durability, but there is gear that wears out, besides things like weather damage.

    With just lowering usage you can shrink the size of the lines(or don't upgrade as you expand). Now consider the house w/solar panels situation - The house is using just as much power at night, so you can't shrink the lines, but now it's producing power during the day when people are generally not home, which translates to current on the lines(losses). Right now that doesn't matter much in most areas because vampire drain and such from homes to do things like keep fridges running and AC/DC converters warm, as well as homes with occupants means the power won't go far. But if you get enough solar panels now you need the infrastructure set up to move the power away from the neighborhood to the rest of the grid.

    As for the last part of your comment, while I don't live there anymore, my old utility in ND would cut your rate by about a penny for any kwh over ~1k/month. It's political maneuvering why places like California charge you more per kwh if you 'use too much'.

  • by calidoscope (312571) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @04:56PM (#45444689)
    Obviously you have never taken a look at the California ISO website during the summer, which gives real information on demand and production. as opposed to rants of solar fanboys writing for Wikipedia. Peak production from solar occurs at 12 noon, peak demand occurs at 6PM. Solar does help with energy production during the hottest part of the days but is no help when demand is highest and thus does nothing to reduce the need for spinning reserves.

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