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Power The Almighty Buck

Electric Company Wants Monthly Fee For Solar Users 367

7-Vodka writes "Xcel Energy customers who have their own solar panels are worried about a new fee being proposed by the company. A monthly fee to pay for transmission and distribution of energy would be charged to customers who have solar panels, irrespective of their energy use for the month. An Xcel Energy spokesman said the fee is to ensure that regular customers don't subsidize the 'connectivity fees' for the solar panel customers who don't pay when they generate as much as they use. When pressed, the spokesman admitted that nobody actually pays a 'connectivity fee,' yet they wanted to prevent the mooching from occurring in the future (presumably when they hit everyone with such a fee). He also called the absence of a connectivity fee for solar customers a 'double subsidy' because many solar customers receive rebates to install the panels."
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Electric Company Wants Monthly Fee For Solar Users

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  • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:25AM (#28908537)

    Because I'm not really getting what the hell they mean about how solar panel users are mooching by NOT using the grid's energy. Maybe there's something electrical and complicated going on that I, as a mere mortal, don't understand that some kind EE can explain to me.

    Right now all I'm hearing is "Damn them, how dare those freeloaders not buy things from us!"

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:31AM (#28908569)

      Basically it's an infrastructure fee. While they may not be using the grid's energy, it still costs money to maintain that grid. So the logic is that if they are hooked up to the grid, they should pay a maintenance fee.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:43AM (#28908661)

        Don't be suckered by the industry PR flacks' language. Many states have laws requiring them to pay people who _generate_ electricity. It is bad enough that want it for free, now they want to get paid for it, too. People generating their own power help reduce power line transmission problems and reduce peak-load problems. It is just about greed, nothing else.

        • by volxdragon ( 1297215 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:01AM (#28908761)

          The energy companies only have to pay if a persons generation exceeds consumption and as such they start pushing energy back into the grid (IE, spin the meter backwards). It seems perfectly reasonable to assess a fee if you are still hooked up to the grid, someone has to pay for the maintenance of the grid and connection to your house and if you are getting paid for pushing energy back in to the grid, you too are using the grid, only as a provider, not a consumer. Even if you aren't actively pushing energy back into the grid, you still have the option of pulling energy from the grid (say, on cloudy days or at night if you don't have sufficient battery capacity). Either way, you're using it and should help pay for the maintenance of it.

          • by GuyverDH ( 232921 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:21AM (#28908907)

            They've already paid that - it's called a connection fee...

            They're also already getting charged more for the power they do use, since their usage is lower, they get onto a higher cost per KWH rate.

            It's more than double dipping if they try to charge more, and too damned bad if their connection fee didn't cover future (I'm not using much of your power anymore).

            • by tepples ( 727027 )

              too damned bad if their connection fee didn't cover future

              As I understand the article, that's all it's about: a hike in the connection fee to cover the changing cost structure of providing electric power to residences.

            • by HereIAmJH ( 1319621 ) <{HereIAmJH} {at} {hdtrvs.org}> on Saturday August 01, 2009 @12:32PM (#28909491)

              It's more than double dipping if they try to charge more, and too damned bad if their connection fee didn't cover future (I'm not using much of your power anymore).

              If it's anything like my electric company, they get an ongoing fee as well in the form of a minimum usage charge. I have a house I'm remodeling and I never hit minimum usage on any utility. The electric company gets a minimum $16.50 a month. I forget how much that covers. Water and sewer EACH get $14.50 a month until I use more than 1000 gallons of water. And gas wanted $27!!! a month. I told them what they could do with their connection charge, and went all electric. Now if I could just get them to pull their leaky meter and cap the line. In my opinion, the only organizations more customer abusive than a utility company are government agencies.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:28AM (#28908967)

            I call bullshit (no offense :) )

            Back in the 70s when per house power consumption was considerably less the grid was still paid for by power sales and/or a charge everyone paid. In rural areas where the cost of the infrastructure on a per house basis is much higher the infrastructure is still paid for the same ways.

            Now, per house energy consumption is at an all time high and only increasing and if you effectively use less power you are expected to subsidize the infrastructure for those who use more? If you push power into the grid at a cost less than the power company could generate it for and which they will turn around and sell at the going rate which will mean a greater profit than from their own power generation, you have to subsidize their infrastructure?

            I call bullshit. A flat infrastructure charge to everyone or this is nothing more than an attempt to tax your own power generation. The money they lose is due to free market forces (cheap solar availability) and the money they gain is from the cheaper power available to them. Any charge for infrastructure should be equal to everyone OR scaled to the infrastructure costs of the area, which would mean higher costs for rural areas.

            Are the power companies the next RIAA? Better methods exist so we'll charge you to use them since we won't make money on it?

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Here in NJ, the electric company only pays you for the electricity you put into the grid, but charges you for both electricity AND delivery when you take it off the grid. So If your average consumption equals your solar production, you still end up paying. I would hardly call this mooching - especially when delivery charges are nearly as much as usage charges.

          • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @01:02PM (#28909823) Homepage Journal

            There is a problem with this logic. If I generate excess energy this month, and if my state requires the electric company to pay me for my energy, then I get a small check and/or credit toward next month's bill. Looking at that credit, I see that the electric company is paying me about half of what they charge me for electricity. Which means, of course, that they are making a profit by redistributing my electricity.


            Yes, maintenance is an important consideration, but they are being paid for that maintenance by every person who pays the utility for electricity. It's all included in the rates approved by the state in which they operate.

            This whole thing is just more dirty politics and greed.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              It's all a scam to protect profits and palying on the American fear of socialism and paying for anything someone else may be using.
        • by Jimithing DMB ( 29796 ) <dfe@tgw b d .org> on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:26AM (#28908949) Homepage

          Actually no, it's about simple accounting for resources. It costs money to maintain the electric grid. There are two basic costs involved for you to receive power: 1) Cost of generating the power, 2) cost of transmitting that power. Ordinarily when you buy power from the power company they roll these together and charge you per kWh.

          When you have your own on-site generation you have 3 basic states of use: 1) Using some amount of power from the grid, 2) using zero power from the grid, 3) putting power back into the grid. For state 1 and 2 you are simply charged for electricity as per usual. It's state 3 that's problematic.

          The problem is that many people naively expect to get paid the same rate for energy they put back into the grid as energy they took from the grid. But the rate they paid to take energy from the grid was generation plus transmission. If the rate they are paid to put energy back into the grid is the same rate, e.g. "running the meter backwards" then they are effectively being paid for stealing.

          The ideal fix for this is to have two meters. One for inbound power usage and one for outbound power supply. The customer would then have to pay for inbound usage at the normal rate and would be paid for supplying power at a reduced rate. That is, they would be paid for generation of the power but would not be paid for transmission of it because they did not themselves pay for transmission.

          In lieu of this, the power company has found it easier to simply charge a connection fee to pay for this transmission. It looks bad to someone who is ignorant of the mechanics of power transmission and it doesn't seem particularly fair because it's apparently a flat fee that will be charged based on how much the company estimates the customer is using the grid to transmit power.

          That said it is still more fair than what they are doing now which seems to be paying the customers who put power back into the grid for not only the generation, which they did provide, but also for the transmission, which they did not. The money has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is the companies bottom line. So the company will eventually petition to have the electricity rates raised to cover this cost which means that everybody else will have to pay more because some people think its cool that their meter actually runs backwards.

          It's really not that difficult to understand. The problem here is that the reporter didn't check her facts or use logic or reason. Instead it's a he-said he-said story between the underdogs and the big bad evil corporation. She mentions in the article that she pressed the power company spokesman and got him to admit that "currently, no Xcel electric customers pay extra to fund solar connectivity fees. In reality, Xcel absorbs those fees." Then she goes on to say that "The money from the proposed fee would not go into the pockets of electric customers, but would go back to Xcel." This is true but no where near the whole story. Xcel has a fiduciary responsibility to account for resources used. Right now Xcel's resources are being used without payment and actually worse than that Xcel is actually paying someone else to use their resources. That is an untenable situation which can only be resolved by charging someone for it. This can be done by either correctly charging the customers who use these resources or, if this fails, by raising the rates for everyone. There are no other options. But Christin did not bother to point out the obvious here.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Sniper98G ( 1078397 )

            There is one problem with your logic.

            When a customer generate electricity at their home, it goes directly onto the local grid in a residential area. That electricity can then be used by customers in the local area without the need for long distance transmission. So; that means that the power company does not need to generate or transmit that quantity of electricity out to that local grid.

            One of the problems with our current electrical system is that most of the power generation facilities are located far aw

          • by zcubed ( 916242 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @12:57PM (#28909763)
            Here in Colorado we have net metering, so two meters aren't needed. If my solar generates more than I use the excess is sent back to the grid, "State 3" in your post, I sell my electricity back to Xcel at wholesale prices, not what I pay if I get the power from the grid, "State 1" from your post. Lets say I need power from Xcel, I would pay them (for simplicity) 10 cents per kw, but if I generate more on a sunny day I sell it back to them for 6 cents per kw. Please point out to me how are they getting screwed again?

            Us fine folks here in Colorado passed a law several years ago that 20% of electricity has to come from renewable resources by 2020 [reuters.com], so Xcel would benefit from having more people getting solar on their houses, but they want to have the generation facilities to keep their monopoly.

            Plain and simple, this is just a money grab by Xcel as they are going for the triple bonus of not having to generate as much electricity (less money spent on coal), getting a "connection fee", and getting closer to the requirement of 20% renewable without any capitol outlay.

            I think most all power companies are scared that their monopoly on electricity production and distribution is in jeopardy with advances and the new smart grid. Power companies are the single biggest roadblock to any advancement of our aged and ailing electrical grid. They refuse to look at any other way of doing business other than having huge power plants and huge power lines feeding. (sound familiar? Music industry anyone?) I realize that there will always be a need for power plants and lines, but there are many ways to get the job done better.

            I am guessing that you work for a power company?
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by sribe ( 304414 )

              ...I sell my electricity back to Xcel at wholesale prices...

              No, you do not. "Net metering" means what it sounds like it means. Incoming power runs the meter forward; outgoing power runs the meter backward; at the end of the month the meter is read and you pay for the net usage. Thus you are being credited for your power generation at the exact same retail rate you are being charged for your power consumption.

              The only time that discount pricing comes into the picture is that if over the course of an entire year you generate more than you use, you get a refund for th

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                Depends on where you live. If you're generating in the afternoon, when energy usage is at its peak, you're creating more valuable energy than you're using. In some areas, they charge extra for peak power. But homeowners probably trade one kwh of peak energy generation for a credit against the less valuable kwh they used later that evening. Further, peak power is more valuable even where the rates aren't structured to reflect the fact.

                Peak power means that every source of generating capacity is already r

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by uncqual ( 836337 )
          If this works like where I live, the power company can get screwed by solar panel customers. This is because whenever the meter is "spinning backwards", the power company is forced to pay retail rates for this power when it would be cheaper to just buy the power at bulk "wholesale" rates -- possibly from equally "green" sources (such as geo thermal, hydro, or wind). Solar panel users can suck power at peak times (hot days for example when more cooling is needed) and then spin the meter backwards the next tw
      • by jonbryce ( 703250 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:46AM (#28908679) Homepage

        My electricity bill has a daily standing charge + a charge for each unit of electricity I use. I thought that was a pretty common arrangement, and the standing charge covers the cost of grid maintenance, and the unit charge covers the cost of generating electricity.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Nobody seems to complain about a 911 fee on their cellular bill, solar users shouldn't complain about paying to have the grid as a back-up.

        However, one may complain when the fee is unreasonably high and consumption costs are not rebated accordingly, as will surely be the case.

    • by HeLLFiRe1151 ( 743468 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:32AM (#28908577)
      The logic is that even if the customer isn't using the power from the electric company, they will still be using the companies lines when the meter runs backwards. With that logic, why should the power company be able to use land for their poles and such without compensation to the who don't use their electricity?
      • Typically the way it works now is that you pay a small fee to the electric company for their services in keeping track of the electricity that you use and what you sell to them. I think it's usually something like $5.

        Assuming that one is in a part of the country which requires companies to buy the electricity back they first credit you for the power you provide against the power you use when the sun is down and then they're supposed to bill/credit you for any differences. Those transactions already inclu
    • by Pretzalzz ( 577309 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:33AM (#28908583)
      In essence the solar users give power to the grid during the day and then take different power back at night for a net usage of zero or minus. If the grid didn't exist they wouldn't have power at night since they aren't designed to store significant amounts of power. If a transformer blows the power company still has to fix it even though there isn't really a 'paying' customer. Of course night time power is cheaper than day time power but the solar user probably isn't being fully compensated so even without the fee the electric company is still coming out ahead, but are just being greedy.
      • by jonbryce ( 703250 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:47AM (#28908691) Homepage

        Surely the price you sell the electricity to the grid for is less than the price you pay to buy it back, and this margin should cover this maintenance charge?

        If you are selling more units of electricity than you buy back, and as a result you don't pay anything, then the electric company is getting free electricity off you which they can sell to someone else to cover the cost.

        • by Devout_IPUite ( 1284636 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:00AM (#28908759)

          Additionally if this became a real problem you'd see two rates, a night rate and a day rate. Then the day rate would be dirt cheap and the night rate would be wicked expensive.

        • by kramer ( 19951 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:28AM (#28908969) Homepage

          Not really. The standard electric meter runs forward when you're buying electricity, backwards when you're selling electricity. With a standard meter, the company can only tell your net energy use. If you use 100 kilowatts, and put back 95 kilowatts, all they see is 5 kilowatts. There's no record of when each kilowatt was used, or anything like that.

          This assumes a standard mechanical electric meter, which is what is in something like 95% of residential homes. Digital meters can keep track of when you use, and meter at different rates, but for the most part they're only used by larger commercial power users.

          Further, several states forbid the electric company to buy from consumers at a lower rate than they sell to consumers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tuoqui ( 1091447 )

        Unless you store it in battery packs/racks... Which a good number of zero or near-zero solar uses. Might encourage more people to engage in energy self-sufficiency and cut the cord to the grid if the Power Company gets too greedy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Solar power users use the grid as an energy storage device. Sunny day ? push power in the grid. Cloudy ? draw power from the grid. average used energy: 0. Bill from energy company: 0 . -> no income to maintain the grid. That is why you need a monthly fee, just for being connected to the grid.

      The size of that fee, and whether it should apply to only solar power users or everyone is another matter.

      • Unfortunately I can't check this but your logic is correct only if the unit price charged by the electricity company is the same as that which they return to the customer in the case where the customer produced more electricity than they used.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tarpitcod ( 822436 )

      It's TANSTAAFL basically. There's a cost to the power company for providing connectivity to a solar users house. It costs them money to run the power lines, and to have the workforce that can service those lines. It costs them money to have capacity available for that Solar user on a cloudy day.

      If users generate more power than they use and feed power back intot he grid - then the power company should pay for it. If they do pay for it - it should defray the cost for that connection.

      A fair system would b

      • Apart from itemization, that stuff is already dealt with. At least in states which require power company buy backs. The cost of that distribution and equipment is already factored into the price of electricity. The fee is strictly for the meter service since it requires equipment and resources not normally required.
    • by sorak ( 246725 )

      Internet analogy:
      When you connect to the internet, you receive content that is not produced by your ISP, and you may even produce content of your own. Regardless, you still pay your ISP a fee to connect you to the pipe. Should you wish to go "off the grid", then it is your choice to do so.
      If they use net metering, then it is likely that they use energy on some occasions, and then make up for it on others. In this situation, the power company is still providing a service by acting a a permanent battery on

  • by YahoKa ( 577942 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:29AM (#28908559)
    I am not sure we can/should speculate on this without more details. Of course the energy company wants to ensure its revenues, but this may not be unreasonable. Even if you have solar, you're (probably) still connected to the grid. It's a huge convenience to you to use just a bit of energy when you really need it - but what if you only use $5 worth of electricity at a low cost? The billing probably process probably costs a nice percentage of your total bill! Is it really unreasonable to pay for a connectivity fee? I don't think it is necessarily...
  • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:30AM (#28908563)

    Many electric providers charge a base "connection" fee to all customers to cover the costs of maintaining the connection, billing, etc. Power is charged on top of that. Nothing in the article says it will only be charged to customers with solar panels, so I assume this is just following what other providers already do.

    • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:11AM (#28908841) Homepage

      Many electric providers charge a base "connection" fee to all customers to cover the costs of maintaining the connection, billing, etc.

      I'd be surprised if all providers didn't already do that. Every utility bill I receive has a base charge on it.

      What you're missing is that the article doesn't say if Denver residents are already paying a base fee or not. If they are, this is a special added fee just for solar households. It's a poor article. I wouldn't try to draw many conclusions from the lack of facts available.

      • by GoRK ( 10018 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:56AM (#28909211) Homepage Journal

        I think the point is probably that the "base" fee currently charged to all customers is likely not indicative of the true cost of the connection and some of that cost is incorporated into the kWh fees to more fairly distribute the charges to customers of different sizes. For example, a commercial business with 200A service actually costs about the same to connect to the grid as a residence with 200A service, only their actual usage might be 4 times higher. Likewise the cost to connect a single rural customer with 200A service might be astronomical even if actual usage is minimal.

        I would think a better model might be to establish minimum fees that more closely resemble the true costs of connection. Say your "base fee" is $20 but your connectivity actually costs about $100 net to the power company -- Well you are going to need to offset this difference some way -- either by buying $80 of power from them or by giving them $80. In the case of solar customers, this would be an incentive to reduce their grid connection by taking smaller grid service (or no service) or reducing their energy consumption in order to put enough power back onto the grid to offset the fee.

    • Switching utilities, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in the DC area charges me 11 bucks a month just to stay hooked up to their pipes. Since Washington DC area tap water is so foul, particularly when the Potomac River gets low, I drink only Deer Park Spring Water. (I buy them in the huge 2.5 gallon jugs, which my county recycles.) So basically, all I ever use tap water for is to hand wash dishes / dinnerware, toilet flushing and the shower. Fortunately, I don't have to estimate that part, becaus
  • by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:32AM (#28908575) Homepage

    Your natural gas company charges you a monthly connection fee, even in the summer when you don't use it. Just 'cause you're not burning gas, they still have to maintain the pipes.

    Your ISP charges you a monthly fee for your Internet link regardless of whether you transmit any packets. They have to maintain their infrastructure on the expectation that you can use it at any time. That costs them money whether you use it or not.

    Singling out solar customers and only making them pay a fee seems unfair and if it isn't illegal it should be. But simply saying, hey: there's a minimum monthly fee for an electrical hookup whether you use it or not doesn't strike me as out of line.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Raleel ( 30913 )

      I can agree with this logic. I do wonder when they will start charging a "feed your extra power back into the grid" fee will begin and any number of other fees that might arise out of this.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But they're already charging that fee.
      The FAQ for xcel's own solar rebate program is here [xcelenergy.com], read question 3.

    • Yes but the gas company doesn't charge me an extra fee for using an electric stove instead of a gas stove. It'd be one thing if they were talking about a flat maintenance fee to all users (which is standard in a lot of places) but they just want to single out the solar users.

  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:35AM (#28908597)

    "Sir, we've learned that the government is PAYING our customers to get these solar panels, and then we have to pay them for the electricity that is generated. Some may actually see a net profit from this. We even get cheaper electricity out of the deal, without having to pay for the equipment."

    "What? What?! No - absolutely not - we cannot allow this to continue unchallenged. Why, if everybody did that, then what would we be?"

    "Well, sir, we'd be the company that provides power when the sun isn't providing it. We wouldn't have to pay for power we aren't using from them. We could even start reselling expensive solar equipment and batteries."

    "Oh, so it wouldn't have to absolutely destroy us... oh, but damn, the shareholders!"

    "The shareholders?"

    "Yes, they'll go apeshit if they learn we aren't maximizing profits. Damnit, we'll have to do something to convince the shareholders that we're not letting an opportunity for shortterm profit fall away. I know - start charging a ridiculous fee for connecting, then using these solar systems, then they'll be another companies problem."

    "Customers willing to provide cheap electricity are a problem?"

    "No, shareholder expectations about making money from them are a problem. Losing customers for 'overzealous' charges we can explain, but losing profit margins from existing customers we get a shitstorm for. Commence the charges!"


    Ryan Fenton

    • by Latent Heat ( 558884 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:04AM (#28908791)
      I used to be sympathetic to the mindset of all of the people using Ramsey Notation to express their frustration at the power company trying to tack fees on to solar energy users. After the recent financial crisis, I have changed my sympathies to the crabby power company people, but for an indirect reason.

      All loans and mortgages involve some degree of risk. Homeowner loses their job, simply gets tired of making house payments, etc, etc. Risk, however, can be mitigated by pooling -- the principle behind insurance. If we pool a whole bunch of mortgages together, the risk kind of average out, doesn't it? One homeowner may lose their job, but they are not going to all lose their jobs at the same time, right? Yeah, one house gets the roof blown off in a windstorm, but the roof's are not going to blow off all the houses? For a Midwestern tornado, maybe an OK assumption, for Hurricane Katrina, maybe not so much.

      That is how we got into the Financial Crisis. It wasn't so much that any one loan was higher risk than any other, but they all got bundled into some kind of traded mortgage bonds where everyone thought, "hey, they can't all default all at once." A recent discussion of this matter mentioned that the key factor was the Pearson r-coefficient of all of those mortgages, and no one doing the bundling or buying the bundled mortgages had a clue.

      Wind and solar have a "capacity factor", a kind of risk that they cannot be relied upon to supply electricity when called upon. I used to think that one could "pool the risk", interconnect all of these wind generators and solar panels into the grid and average out the fluctuation. For wind power, I am pretty sure that the capacity factor is highly correlated and hence wind is almost worthlessly unreliable. For solar, I need to see some more data.

      The thing is that wind is highly variable, and the variability can be correlated over continental land masses within the reach of any grid, and that wind can just quit for weeks at a time (summer doldrums, if you will). One of the things often suggested is "try it out and get real-world experience." Well, wind is being tried in a major way in Europe, and the capacity factors in practice are proving to be well below original predictions and projections.

      Now solar could be another thing, especially in the desert Southwest. Maybe the availability of solar electricity correlates nicely with A/C demand, but I would need to see some data on this, and I imagine the A/C peak lags the sunshine peak on account of thermal lag, and maybe some of this could be compensated with some kind of "smart grid" where people are encourage to run their A/C more at noon instead of waiting till late afternoon and early evening when the heat finally filters through the walls.

      The electric power companies never did like solar and wind interconnects, especially from residential users, and maybe they have solid reasons for not liking them, apart from utility executives being Blue Meanies with sharp teeth where most people have their stomachs. Maybe a homeowner with a wind or solar setup is producing much less in the way of usable green power than they think and is increasing the use of expensive natural gas in less-than-efficient peaking plants. We are geeks, here, and we can come up with some reasonable back-of-the-envelope estimates of these effects, instead of lapsing into, "Oh the humanity, those EVIL power companies!!"

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        Now solar could be another thing,

        Yes, your rant about wind is a different thing than being discussed here. Also, the cheapest way of generating electricity is a coal pland for "base" power (power at the least demand), or maybe a little more based on natural gas cost. And then use NG for peak. Peak is almost always in the middle of the day (well, late afternoon, anyway) so if anything, a well set up utility will see direct savings in NG costs. The reason you use coal for the base draw is that you can't
  • by dedmorris ( 1137577 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:36AM (#28908607)
    What about the monopoly Xcel has to distribute electricity. That's one hell of a subsidy. Oh, what about the free right of ways across the solar panel owner's property. Maybe the home owners should be permitted to charge for allowing a utility pole on their lawn.
  • What owners of solar panels should do is to join hands and bite back the company by filing a suit for "unauthorized" use of power generated by them.
    In short, argue in court that the large corporate is stealing their power using its "tubes" that connect the home to the company.

  • For all the oxygen I've processed into carbon dioxide?

  • You pay something for being connected. They rolled the cable to your door, so now you must pay for their efforts.

    This is classic tactics also employed by local land line gov. owned Telcos here for using their land line. I do not use land line phone for example at all, but must pay for the wall socket otherwise they will cut the cable leading to my house or something. Nobody really cared until people started to cancel the wired connection contracts.
  • by Brian Stretch ( 5304 ) * on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:38AM (#28908629)

    Solar panels produce their highest output when demand is highest, namely on sunny summer days when everyone has their air conditioning cranked up. That's VERY expensive power. Keeping the power company from needing to fire up their peak power generators (versus relying on base load) and helping to prevent brownouts is worth serious $$$. Solar panel output is lowest when cheap base load power is plentiful. In management-speak this is called "synergy".

    The PHB's at Xcel Energy need a whack with a cluestick. Nickel and diming people who are giving you expensive peak power for the price of base load is petty at best.

  • by Cheerio Boy ( 82178 ) * on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:39AM (#28908631) Homepage Journal
    If they want to charge a connection fee then so be it. The gas company and other utilities often charge those so there's a track record of that and I doubt you'll be able to fight the lawyers and politicians they own without a lot of trouble.

    The money you would spend to fight them could be better used to move yourself off the grid so you don't have to pay them. Anything. Ever.

    But that's a lifestyle change too so I doubt enough people in the US are going to be motivated enough to do that.

    Note - I live in the US and am reducing my usage until I can find a way to get off the grid. You can do it even in a suburban home if you plan well enough.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Norsefire ( 1494323 ) *

      You can do it even in a suburban home if you plan well enough.

      And own a lot of hamsters.

  • subject here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by medelliadegray ( 705137 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:39AM (#28908633)

    It's called a line connection fee. EVERYONE already pays this. There is no reason that solar CONTRIBUTORS should have to be charged to help the power companies, if anything excel should have to pay them. Think about it, power, they dont have to maintain, service, or otherwise pay to implement, comes into their grid magically.

    These guys just want to remain a near monopoly on power generation, so they want to create barriers of entry. People who propose stuff like this should be flogged, or worse.

  • The major flaw in this reasoning is that it is absolutely illegal (though IMNAL so I cant quote specific laws) for a company to charge a consumer for purchasing a product from another company or creating a product themselves. The power company is a utility and has no right whatsoever to inspect the property of customers and charge fees accordingly.

    This kind of announcement can only hurt a regular company. I wonder why a utility thinks they are above it?

    Im 100% sure that the first person that gets charged

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Norsefire ( 1494323 ) *

      G.O. would roll in his grave if he found out that 1984 was a mild version of the future.

      Didn't you hear? Xcel dug him up, wrapped in wire and are generating electricity by how fast he's spinning.

  • Easy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nightfire-unique ( 253895 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @10:40AM (#28908643)

    This one's easy. Split the bill into two portions: transmission, and generation.

    Line usage gets billed per day, and generation, per kWh. The line usage fees cover the maintenance of the power lines and are charged whether or not you use (or contribute) any power. The generation fees can range from negative (if you offer a net surplus) to positive (if you use more than you contribute).

    • by Orne ( 144925 )

      Exactly. And that's exactly what is happening here.

      Let me put it this way, currently an end-use customer is getting billed transmission (the correct term at this level is "distribution") charges on the net energy consumed.

      In theory, a house without solar panels is only consuming, therefore the net consumption is the gross consumption and the transmission component (which was already baked in the bill) would compensate the distribution company for transmission of energy into the house. More importantly, th

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by FirstOne ( 193462 )

        "But, a house with solar panels would net to (near) zero, as the energy produced during the day offsets the energy consumed at night. The net is zero, but the gross energy in/out most certainly isn't. The distribution company must still maintain the lines that allows the house to sell its energy back to the grid, as well as deliver energy to be consumed at night, but the distribution company is no longer being compensated by houses with solar, unless there's a rate structure change.

        Now, the rate stru

  • I'll give a call to my local rep's on Monday and sort this out.

  • just get a big power switch to connect from your property to the pole and tell teh power company if they want your extra electricity, then they will have to pay you for it.

    • by Orne ( 144925 )

      You have mistakenly assumed that they want your power.

      The rate case that the public utility commision and the distribution company agree to compensates the distribution company for the transmission costs to deliver power to your house. If you end up using less electricity, then the existing built lines are under-utilized, which means less need to upgrade, which is less future revenue for the distribution company.

  • Tell me mr energy company shill, where do the people with solar panels get there energy at night?

    Thats right the connection to the grid, and they are pay you for the electricity.

  • by jipn4 ( 1367823 )

    How are they even going to know?

  • Looking at my most recent bill, I think I pay $10.68 even if I use 0 KWH, so I already pay such a "connection fee" with Consumers Energy in Michigan.
    System Access Charge - 6.00
    Delivery Surcharges - 4.68
  • When I was a kid, I collected newspapers to recycle from the neighbors. We brought them to a recycling plant and got paid by weight. This makes sense, I provided labor, raw materials and transported them, they paid for them and turned them into a product.

    Nowadays, ironically by law, we collect, clean, sort and partially transport recyclables and have to pay for doing much of the work for them.

    This sounds similar.

    If *I* invest in the infrastructure, I provide lower cost energy, I maintain the equipment, I

  • by at10u8 ( 179705 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:04AM (#28908785)
    There are some solar users with battery banks large enough to ride all the way through a typical night, but very few solar users with enough battery to last through a week of storms. In this case the power company's infrastructure is acting as insurance, and a fee like this is the price for that insurance.
  • And these same companies will refund the money to the government spent to subsidize connecting rural people to the grid?

    These fuckers want to have the cake and eat it to. I say we cram it up the ass, tie 'em to chairs and kick 'em down the stairs.

  • Sounds fishy ... Presumably the connectivity cost goes both ways? Meaning the solar panel customer has a cost too, that they would like the electrical company to contribute to?


  • Translation: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:16AM (#28908871) Journal
    "We're not making enough of a profit, therefore we're going to start making up fees so we do. Thanks for the idea, air travel industry!"
    I call shenanigans on them for this. By all means, let's start making solar power for individual property owners less attractive! Let's punish them for being green and smart and trying to save themselves some money! Yeah, that'll sure incentivize them to invest $20,000 or more for solar panel installation!
    Stupid bastards. Can't wait until someone steps in and tells them "NO!".
  • Net Metering (Score:4, Informative)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:28AM (#28908961) Journal

    It appears, from another article, that Xcel wants to charge a fee based on the power generation capacity of a customer's solar panels. This seems totally unreasonable, except for one thing -- net metering. Net metering means Xcel essentially buys the customer's power at _retail_. So Xcel has to eat part of the transmission and distribution costs for the customer electricity. Net metering is required by federal law, so they can't just not do it. This seems to be an attempt to find a way around it.

    Xcel already charges a flat fee to all customers (in addition to metered charges); this is on top of that.

    http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_12914520?source=rss [denverpost.com]

  • Power companies have, for decades, been advocating energy conservation, through rebates, in part because it's less expensive for them to do that than to build new power plants.

    Now a power company is saying that the rebates THEY offer to prevent construction THEY don't want is only desirable up to the point...where they can't make as much money off of it? Is the objective to reduce power grid usage, or to maximize revenue? Sounds like they are reaching that decision point. Thoughts?

  • by kulakovich ( 580584 ) <slashdot@bonfireproductions. c o m> on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:33AM (#28909013)
    Because I know you have a rep reading this.

    I AM GLAD you are doing this. Because now you open up the dialogue in which we discuss what I am going to CHARGE YOU per kilowatt hour that I GENERATE.



    ps - we're unregulated so I'll just put something out there after you say yes.
  • your excess energy to your neighbors, in fact everyone get panels and screw the mannnnn!
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @01:19PM (#28910003) Homepage Journal

    Ok, so you prevent your system from giving back extra during sunny days ( which is the right thing to do.. ) how would they ever know you can generate your own power? ( hey, we go on vacation a lot so we shut everything off )

    Also, if i'm giving back back to the grid on good days, they are in effect getting free power to distribute elsewhere so they shouldn't bitch about it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PPH ( 736903 )
      Aerial photographs. That (or a copy of your permit) and the appropriate ordinance and they shouldn't have any trouble adding the charge to your bill.

      Also, if I'm giving back back to the grid on good days, they are in effect getting free power to distribute elsewhere so they shouldn't bitch about it.

      Depending on where you live (what your utilities primary source of fuel is), the capital costs to maintain the distribution system are a significant part of their costs.

      What really bugs me is; if a utility moves from a model of energy charges alone (with capital costs rolled in) to charging for energy and capital as separate items, this will destroy much of

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger