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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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  • what cost (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @09:31AM (#45442499)

    shifts costs to the utility? What costs? A second meter base (which the customer has to pay for anyway) and a second meter? The second meter can't possibly cost $4.90/mo to maintain, over the typical life-time of a system.

    • Re:what cost (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @09:35AM (#45442515)
      Anything that generates electricity that is not a huge power plant is a threat to the electric company. They will do whatever they can to mitigate that threat. They do not want to become an entity in a world where everyone has generating capacity at their own homes, and they simply maintain a network or wires to share surplus amongst them and top them off at peak load times.
      • Re:what cost (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:34AM (#45442821)

        Not true.

        The power company openly welcomes almost any generation on the grid. That power becomes a supplier. However the utility's most important goal is reliable power which solar notoriously difficult to provide.

        Then there is the cost of supporting the transmission of electricity. Generation companies pay that as a fee, why shouldn't individuals. As a customer, I love the power company paying me for excess generation but as a utility worker, why should the utility pay retail cost for power (when the maintenance cost is high) and they can buy it cheaper elsewhere.

        This isn't really an argument for the individual customers but for these groups (like cited in the original article) who provide you with 'low upfront costs' where you get almost little in return. Their solar panels, their federal tax incentives, generating on your rooftop for a small relief in power you buy from them. Funny how they are charging the homeowner a 'maintenance' fee already. They've been gaming the system and simply want to protect their profits.

        • Re: what cost (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @12:56PM (#45443643)

          You have no clue what you are talking about. Arizona utility companies pay a wholesale rate to solar homeowners for the electricity they generate. During on peak hours my utility pays me a few cents per kWh and resells that for, depending on the time of use plan the other customer has chosen, possibly 10 times that amount. They do not pay me retail for my excess generation, and they always zero out the balance in April before the hot months start so that my credited kWh balance doesn't offset my usage in those months that my demand exceeds the capacity of my system.

        • by meerling (1487879)
          Some utility companies want to support their customers, others, like the one in the article, would rather support increasing profits.

          Where I live, there are 3 utility districts right together, but you don't get a choice as to which one you have. The one that likes building massive fancy office buildings for itself charges 30% and 40% more than the other two. They are getting power from the same feeds.

          A few years back, a bill was defeated that would have given home owners with solar around a 20% premium abov
      • by fritsd (924429)

        Anything that generates electricity that is not a huge power plant is a threat to the electric company.

        It's nice to formulate issues as us-vs-them, but I don't understand why that is true:

        • anything that generates electricity in Arizona that is not a huge power plant is competition to the electric company
        • the electric company is owned by the Arizona state
        • the Arizona state is owned by the Arizona people
        • so this form of competition would lead to a conflict between the Arizona citizens and the other Arizona citi
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by khallow (566160)

          the electric company is owned by the Arizona state

          Apparently, the Arizona Public Service Company is a subsidiary [wikipedia.org] of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation not the state of Arizona. So your chain of reasoning is incomplete. This incidentally is one reason for disengaging such services from public control. It reduces the incident of conflicts of interest.

          • by laird (2705)

            Surely conflict of interest is an argument for keeping utilities under public rather than private control, because then the utility's interests are aligned with the public rather than the private ownership.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Joce640k (829181)

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

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

      • They shouldn't be penalizing anybody. If it makes sense to install solar panels, people will do it. No need for either fines or subsidies.

    • Re:what cost (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:09AM (#45442707)
      There is a cost of spinning reserve and grid stability maintenance. Why shouldn't those who need it or negatively impact it pay for it? The real cost should probably be even more, depending on the size of the installation. Its only $4.95/mo.
      • by mdsolar (1045926)
        It does depend on the size of the installation. $0.70 per KW capacity. Generally, customers who need more power need more grid service, including the spinning reserve you mention. And, since solar provides power at the highest demand periods, it costs those types of costs rather than increasing them. Though a bit more random, even wind is capping the expense of gas by putting the less efficient peakers off line to the extent that nukes are close because they can't compete. http://will.illinois.edu/nfs/ [illinois.edu]
        • Nuclear has nothing to do with it. Spinning reserve is managed with fossil, gas, and hydro. The peak smoothing would be a more solid argument if solar produced a steady output during the peak 'work day'. Unfortunately, solar produces heaving only for a few hours of that higher need period. Various sources tend to ignore those impacts.

          The solar fans would be much better suited to address the related issues and look for solutions rather than ignore and claim they don't exist.
      • There is a cost of spinning reserve and grid stability maintenance. Why shouldn't those who need it or negatively impact it pay for it?

        The answer has to do with the Prisoner's Dilemma [wikipedia.org]. What is best for the individual may not be the best for society, and what appears to be a sub-optimal choice for the individual often turns out to be better for the individual in the long run if everyone makes the same choice.

        For a concrete example, consider the Polio vaccine [wikipedia.org]. There is a small chance of getting polio from the vaccine, so from the individual's point of view it makes no sense to get your kids vaccinated. If everyone else is vaccinated, you can

        • by TheMeuge (645043) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:01PM (#45443671)

          Just to get the facts straight, the live attenuated polio vaccine is not used any more because the risk/payoff ratio changed so drastically (largely because of its success). We have the inactivated vaccine, which is not as effective, but does not carry a risk of disease. When the pool of the infected is low enough due to suppression by the live vaccine, there is no reason to use the live vaccine anymore.

        • by mellon (7048)

          The grid tie fee would have to be a lot more than $4.90/month to make the batteries look economical. Have you priced an off-the-grid system? Have you tried living on one? It either requires major lifestyle changes, a truly immense investment in panels and batteries (plus ongoing maintenance costs for the batteries) or a generator that will be running more often than you'd like, burning fossil fuels less efficiently than a big plant would. Anybody who buys batteries in response to this policy is cutt

    • Lots of costs (Score:5, Informative)

      by Firethorn (177587) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @11:17AM (#45443051) Homepage Journal

      In the USA most don't get a second meter, they use what's called 'net metering'. IE if you generate, say, 500 kwh in a month and use 600, you only pay for 100 kwh, even if you only used 100 kwh during the time your panels were generating significant power and used the other 500 at night and such. If your install is big enough that you go negative(spin the meter backwards), you get paid.

      While 'spinning reserve' can be a problem, the bigger expense right now is that homes with solar panels are effectively getting out of would be line maintenance expenses. It costs money to keep the distribution lines and equipment up, and they're still using said lines.

      They're effectively being paid retail for the power they produce.

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

        by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Saturday November 16, 2013 @11:51AM (#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.

        • by timeOday (582209)
          Actually the electricity bill already includes a fixed fee for having service [srpnet.com] (called the Service Charge) which is on top of usage fees. So, now what is the rationale?
          • by Trepidity (597)

            That's only a portion of the maintenance fee: there is a fixed connection fee, and then a portion of the kWh tariff goes to maintenance as well.

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

        by green1 (322787) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @12:08PM (#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!

      • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

        The net metering and residential tariffs are the cause of the problem; residential customers typically are only charged per kWh as a blended rate. Take the example in parent, but let's say all usage is during the night. The transmission and distribution resources for the utility are actually 500+600kWh, although the generation cost is just 600-500kWh. (Yes, it makes me cringe too to use kWh rather than kW.). Since solar output is effectively 6 hours per day, you need to generate 3-4 times the kW rate as

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

        by timeOday (582209) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @12:22PM (#45443433)
        You could say the same of somebody who uses less electricity for any reason - they live in a modestly-sized house, or have a gas water heater and clothes dryer, or just aren't home much - they're cheating the electric company by having a low bill! After all the fixed costs of connecting each house is the same.

        And by the same rationale, are they going to give a discount to heavy users, like people who own electric cars, or swimming pools, or grow marijuana, since the fixed costs are low relative to their high usage fees?

        • Utility costs (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Firethorn (177587)

          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

      • by mysidia (191772)

        If your install is big enough that you go negative(spin the meter backwards), you get paid.

        I read my local utility's terms. With a net meter -- you don't get paid with more generation than usage; you get a credit against future usage.

        And it appears there would be some fees that the credit would not be applicable to.

      • by mellon (7048)

        We have net metering, but they still use two meters; otherwise there's no way to tell whether you were generating a shitload of power and using a shitload of power, or generating nothing and using nothing. I think this varies depending on local policy—if there is no subsidy, there's no need for two meters, but it's still interesting to collect the data, both for you and for the power company.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dave562 (969951)

      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

    • by mysidia (191772)

      shifts costs to the utility? What costs?

      The costs of maintaining your electric lines and other equipment; maintaining your transformers, wiring to your house, substations, etc; are bundled with the per-kWH costs.

      By the way, they don't do a very good job -- if the electric company were paid a little more money that they were only allowed to use for infrastructure; they might actually build better power systems that are less likely to go down, or that have some hardening against Solar EMP risks.

      What

  • What if they drop the APS utility altogether? What about starting a parallel renewable-energy fueled power grid?
  • Sums it up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ElementOfDestruction (2024308) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @09:35AM (#45442517)
    The utility spent $3.7 million to promote its argument, compared with about $330,000 spent by the solar industry, according to documents filed with the commission.

    Fuck these crooks. $3.7M buys a lot of infrastructure improvement.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ZosX (517789)

      How long will solar panel owners be paying off their 3.7 million dollar victory at $5 a month? What an incredible waste of money.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Why are you even paying companies to build your infrastructure? You pay them, they cream their profit off the top and then build it and use it to make even more profit out of you. Why not just build the infrastructure yourself and run it non-profit for your own benefit, or even charge the utility companies to use it?

      Funding infrastructure through energy bills is dumb.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @09:37AM (#45442523)

    The Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in the state, agreed in a 3-to-2 vote at a meeting yesterday in Phoenix that Arizona Public Service Co. may collect about $4.90 a month from customers with solar systems .....
    Arizona Public had requested a fee of $50 a month or more, and the commission’s decision “falls well short of protecting the interests of the 1 million residential customers who do not have solar panels,” Chief Executive Officer Don Brandt said in a statement. ... ...
    “We preserved customer choice in Arizona while recognizing that these cost shifts are real,” said Bob Stump, chairman of the commission. “I think it’s a fair outcome.” The regulators overruled their staff, who recommended in September that the issue be taken up in the utility’s next formal rate case in 2015.
    The utility spent $3.7 million to promote its argument, compared with about $330,000 spent by the solar industry, according to documents filed with the commission.

    Oldest trick in the book. Ask for the moon ($50/month insanity) and cry when they hand you a sterling silver platter instead.

    I sincerely hope cheap high density batteries come out in the next decade that will make grid tie completely moot point if all you want is energy at night.

    • by Sique (173459)
      When cheap high density batteries hit the market, it's the utilities which will at first use them in large arrays, allowing them to leverage energy surplusses and redistribute them, and thus making their own cost of maintaining power much lower. Private energy systems won't be able to compete on price, making autarkic electric power systems an expensive toy for people with too much money at hand or too much paranoia in the brain.
      • by ElBeano (570883)
        But private entities could band together and form cooperatives. I don't know why the Rural Electric Coops aren't all over this. A great deal could be done with a little organization.
        • by MrDoh! (71235) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:24AM (#45442777) Homepage Journal
          In the US? You'd have tv ads claiming this was a communist incursion.
        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @11:21AM (#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.

          • by fritsd (924429)
            I completely agree with your post, however I think the utility monopoly shouldn't just be regulated by the government, but owned by it. Then it's a non-profit where profits are ploughed back into infrastructure improvement, or lower taxes for the population of the state.
          • Actually the reason we have a rural utility coop here is because there wasn't enough people to entice the power company to run power lines. The cooperative installed the power lines and purchases the power from the electric company at wholesale and then bills each coop customer based on usage (basically a community owned power company). Technically there is nothing preventing them from using those same lines to do what the GP proposed.
  • APS is right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @09:40AM (#45442531)

    You still need fossil fuel power plants to regulate voltage. Those have to be paid for and solar installations are getting a benefit without paying for it. VARS aren't cheap. And bitching over 5 bucks a month - that is nothing.

    • Re: APS is right (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Alex Cane (3296683)
      You still need fossil fuels to power industry. Try running a aluminium smelter off a solar farm...
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:05AM (#45442677)

        And the highest consumer demand for power is during a hot sunny day.

        And those are the days where there's most gained from solar power, so the other moron is wrong too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @09:41AM (#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".

  • BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @09:43AM (#45442549) Homepage Journal

    If i produce power and give it back to the system they should be paying ME, not the other way around. WTF.

    Its not hard to avoid not feeding back into the "system", but what sort of nonsense is this where you get penalized for trying to be a good citizen.

    • Re:BS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @09:46AM (#45442573)

      Its not hard to avoid not feeding back into the "system", but what sort of nonsense is this where you get penalized for trying to be a good citizen.

      This is America, where undercutting the large corporations doesn't make you a good citizen, it makes you an enemy of the state.

      If people had solar, that would undercut oil. And they're not going to allow that.

    • by DrPBacon (3044515)
      How many monkeys does it take to run a power grid? All of them.
  • by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @09:45AM (#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.

    • by bradley13 (1118935) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:09AM (#45442709) Homepage

      According to the information I find about Arizona net metering [dsireusa.org], the power you generate offsets your bill (at retail rates) until your bill is zero; after that you are paid wholesale for any excess:

      "Net metering is accomplished using a single bi-directional meter. Any customer net excess generation (NEG) will be carried over to the customer's next bill at the utility's retail rate, as a kilowatt-hour (kWh) credit. Any NEG remaining at the customer’s last monthly bill in a calendar year will be paid to the customer, via check or billing credit, at the utility’s avoided cost payment. "

      If this is really true, then the utility is making a profit reselling the power you generate. So what's the basis for this fee they want to charge?

      • by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:15AM (#45442731) Journal

        The "fee" is the cost of maintaining the grid and power-lines.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          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.

        • Every electric bill contains a fee to remain connected.

      • the utility is making a profit reselling the power you generate.

        Not only that, but because solar generates the most energy in the middle of the day which is also when there is the highest rate of consumption, it helps to reduce peak demand. Peak demand is the most expensive kind of electricity to generate because most electric plants aren't variable, they are either on or off and spinning them up costs a lot of money.

        Residential solar also reduces the need to build an entirely new plant to handle peak demand. It really is a big-time win for most utilities. Them going

        • > It really is a big-time win for most utilities.

          Except that building in the necessary safety management, and power management, to deal with current coming the other way from your customers is not free. Clients with solar panels are unlikely to call the electrical plant and announce when they are disconnecting for maintenance. And clouds passing over an area can cause serious variation in the customer provided solar power, in highly variable fashion that affects whole neighborhoods of panels.

          It's extra w

          • Except that building in the necessary safety management, and power management, to deal with current coming the other way from your customers is not free

            Not free, just a tiny drop in the bucket. You are encouraged to provide citations that prove otherwise.

            Clients with solar panels are unlikely to call the electrical plant and announce when they are disconnecting for maintenance.

            Such a rare event that mentioning it really looks like grasping at straws.

            And clouds passing over an area can cause serious variation in the customer provided solar power, in highly variable fashion that affects whole neighborhoods of panels.

            Clouds also reduce demand for electricity because A/C is the primary form of electric consumption during the day.

    • Its funny how people who are so willing to take taxpayer money to pay 30% of their solar energy cost complain about paying their share when it comes to grid stability.
  • I don't understand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Somebody Is Using My (985418) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:02AM (#45442671) Homepage

    I'm not sure I understand the logic of the commission (that is, the logic of their stated argument, as opposed to the unspoken "we just got $3.7 million from the utilities so we'd better side with them" argument that we all suspect).

    The Arizona Corporation Commission says that this fee is necessary because people who use solar are foisting off some of the maintenance cost onto the other customers who do not use solar panels.

    Some residents installed solar-electric panels on their homes. Any excess energy they generate is sold back to the utilities, transmitted through the utilities infrastructure. The utilities are claiming that this is costing its other, non-solar customers money. But how?

    It's not costing them money in infrastructure; that is still being paid for by all its customers - including those using solar power, as they are still hooked up to the grid and paying Arizona Public for the service (necessary, I suppose, for the occasional cloudy day in AZ). The maintenance costs of the lines are included in this service, just as they are for any other Arizona Public customer; it is not as if AP had to hook up any extra lines to these users of solar power, or as if the lines remain connected and the solar-customers aren't paying for the privilege.

    The utility has to pay for the juice they receive back from these solar-customers, but they can then redistribute this power to other non-solar customers. AP need generate less electricity. I /suppose/ that AP might be operating at loss here if they have to pay out more per watt than it costs them to generate it themselves, but I have strong doubts this is the case. More likely, they are getting a deal on the extra volts and saving by not having to buy extra fuel for their generators.

    In either case, I do not see how the use of solar would raise the cost of electricity for non-solar customers. Maintenance is shared equally among all customers, and purchased electricity from solar users saves the corporation money. There's no added cost to be passed on to non-solar customers.

    There is a danger of becoming irrelevant (and unprofitable!) if solar usage takes off, but - while that may be the real concern of the utility - that is /not/ the argument that they are making.

    Is the Arizona Corporation Commission's case that blatantly bogus or am just I missing something?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by zippthorne (748122)

      With net-metering, the pay back to solar panel owners feeding the mains is basically the retail rate for power. By definition, this rate is higher than the utility's cost to produce power. Further, solar is fairly variable, so there the utilities don't get to shut down any plants as a result of the solar electric.

      The remaining question is whether they can scale back production to match the solar input, and can do so rapidly enough that the solar panels really are offsetting power production in some fashio

      • by Somebody Is Using My (985418) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:34AM (#45442823) Homepage

        With net-metering, the pay back to solar panel owners feeding the mains is basically the retail rate for power

        Thank you. I was unaware - and quite surprised - by this. The retail rate, of course, includes bundled into it part of the maintenance costs so technically Arizona Public's - and the Arizona Corporation Commission's - argument does have merit.

        I am surprised because I would have bet good money that the utilities would have arranged things so they bought back electricity at a lower rate than it cost them to generate the same amount of power - isn't that sort of conniving how corporations usually manage things here? - but in this case it works to the benefit of the customer.

        Looking solely at the argument present by AP and the ACC, I now understand their logic. Of course, I don't /agree/ with their argument, since it focuses primarily on the short-term benefit of the power utility and does nothing to encourage moving us towards renewable energy sources, but as that was a factor that was cleverly ignored by the lawyers, I suppose their argument - limited in scope as it is - is sound.

        Ultimately, I believe this will be taken to court. Hopefully there the larger implications of this decision will be tested and the ACC's judgement found wanting.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mr D from 63 (3395377)

      I do not see how the use of solar would raise the cost of electricity for non-solar customers

      There is a cost associated with keeping a local gas or coal plant running at, say, 30% power ready to make up for shifts in solar and wind input. Plants run most efficiently at 100%, and there is significant efficiency loss running at lower output. Also, the fixed costs of the running the plant (staff, etc) remain the same, even though less power is being produced, thereby further increasing the power production costs from that plant. Don't underestimate this cost. The need for this spinning reserve is incr

      • Demand is not flat and the peak is in the day when all this solar stuff is making life a hell of a lot easier for power distribution. I think I worked that out in the first week I was involved with electricity generation back in the 1990s when there was almost nothing but coal and small hydro on my state's grid, so are you slow or are you not actually in the electricity generation industry?
        • Well, then, explain what happens during the day as cloud cover moves over a large area. Solar input drops and it must be made up with traditional sources. Fossil and gas need to spin up. But Fossil plants take hours to start from cold, and gas plants lose money if they are not running at full. Spinning reserve is required even for that slow moving peak. Those resources must be ready and available. You can argue to which extent they are needed, but do dismiss that need shows me you don't get the bigger pictu
    • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:38AM (#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 Burdell (228580)

      Let's say you and I can both buy a shelf at Wal-Mart for $10. Now I start making shelves for myself instead, and make an exact duplicate of Wal-Mart's $10 shelf. Should my nearest Wal-Mart be required to buy my shelf for $10, transport it to your nearest Wal-Mart, and then sell it to you for $10? They have trucks already, so why should they charge me for the transportation costs?

      I /suppose/ that AP might be operating at loss here if they have to pay out more per watt than it costs them to generate it themselves

      That's exactly the case. If they charge residential customers $0.10/kWh, you don't think all $0.10 goes to pay for the power p

    • by PRMan (959735)
      I think you are missing that they have to maintain expensive 2-way meters only for the solar customers. And now they want to charge a $5 fee as being fair for the monthly rental of that box.
  • by l2718 (514756) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:06AM (#45442683)

    The cost of delivering power has two components: fixed costs (say, power lines to the home) and variable costs (say, of producing the power) The current system was to bundle the fixed costs into the variable ones, and just chage proportional to consumption. Since those selling back power to the grid still need to pay for the fixed costs, this principle of this change seems right. Better execution would have been to add the fixed cost to everyone and make a corresponding reduction to the marginal (per KWh) tariff, at which point those with and without solar panels would be treated equally.

  • Worst Law Of All (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jim Sadler (3430529) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:11AM (#45442717)
    This law is the equivalent of telling your wife you love her while beating her half to death. Society should love people who conserve energy and our government has begged the public to conserve for decades. So laws that encourage people to use solar power are all that we should have. This new tax will hold back solar installations which is exactly what the government claims it does not want. The same is true for electric cars. Electric cars avoid a gas tax so some states now have a special fee for allowing people to use electric cars under the guise that they are not paying their fair share of road taxes. In the case of a fee applied to solar powered homes the tiny fee first required means little. But it puts people on notice that that fee will grow and grow over time. The simple truth is that as more and more homes go solar the grid, in effect, gets smaller and smaller but still has the same maintenance fees which must be passed on to the people who use the grid. Therefore we should expect electric prices to rise for those that do not install solar which will encourage more and more people to go solar. At some point the power gri will not be needed at all for homes and industry will be the only consumer.
  • "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"

    They likely charge about the same for connecting for import, so this seems perfectly fair to me.

    And I install solar panels for a living.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    .. so I don't expect any slashdotters to read it.

    http://erc.ucd.ie/files/theses/Eleanor%20Denny%20-%20A%20Cost-Benefit%20Analysis%20of%20Wind%20Power.pdf

    It's a recent doctorate thesis examining the impact of wind power on the Irish Grid, and it explains a lot of the damaging effects that putting variable power supplies can have on a grid.

    To save you going through the maths, it comes to the conclusion that, with best possible assumptions, a maximum of 30% power from variable renewable supplies can be accepte

  • Let's see, you're probably planning to spend $15,000-$20,000 after factoring in the incentives, in the hope that you'll reduce your power bills by enough to pay for that in some reasonable time. But, then, OH NO you discover that you'll have to pay $4.90/month, so of course you immediately abandon your plans, because now it's utterly hopeless that the project might ever have a decent return. Yeah, right...

  • It seems to me that all customers should be charged this fee and their per kwh fee reduced. This is a service that benefits all customers, not just solar panel owners. In some ways, non-solar customers use the gird even more that the home generators. It is a matter of getting the power charge, the distribution charge and the connection charge properly balanced across the board.
  • by Marrow (195242) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:49AM (#45442909)

    I have to pay 15 dollars a month, about half my bill right now, just to stay connected to the grid. So adding another massive dis-incentive for conservation really does seem unfair. You can never conserve your bill to zero.
    As more homes get built with solar pre-installed, I look forward to the time when entire subdivisions buy a "community battery" and never need fossil.

  • Disconnect from the grid entirely. But yeah - raise the fee - or try to do it. You'll find that your electric provider has the upper hand in setting those rates. They're a protected monopoly after all.

    I have to wonder though with the advances in storage technology - I mean a stupid rule like this would just force me to go off grid completely.
  • ...is to turn the question around. There are two electrical generation utilities connected by a wire: your solar panels and their big fossil plant. Their problem is that they are *required* to buy power from yours when yours happens to be generating, whether they need any power or not. They *have* to turn down or shut off their big plant whenever your system feels like doing some output.

    How would most of us feel about being *required* to buy electrical power whenever their plant is underutilized and nee

  • by BradMajors (995624) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:23PM (#45443803)

    But, no fee if you instead install a wind system?

  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:24PM (#45443809)

    Here in Vermont if you 'sell' via grid-tie you're not paid, rather you get a 'credit' that you must spend before the end of the year. Then at the end of the year the power utility company 'donates' your accumulated credits to itself. Since most power is generated in the sunny months of warm weather and most power is needed during the cold winter months this means the power company comes out way ahead. All summer and fall you are accumulating power credits and then they steal them, oops, I mean donate the credits to themselves so that all winter when your system is producing little power you must buy power and can't use your accumulated summer credits.

    On top of that they charge a hookup fee and a monthly fee for services, a meter reading fee (although they don't actually read meters anymore) and a energy efficiency fee and then taxes on the power you generated too.

    Net metering is a sweet deal for the electric power companies.

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