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Power The Almighty Buck Technology

Arizona Approves Grid-Connection Fees For Solar Rooftops 363

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 @10:31AM (#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.

  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @11:09AM (#45442709) Homepage

    According to the information I find about Arizona net metering [], 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 zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @11:12AM (#45442721) Journal

    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 fashion, or if the net metering subsidy is really a gimmick.

  • by MindStalker ( 22827 ) <> on Saturday November 16, 2013 @11:15AM (#45442731) Journal

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @11:31AM (#45442809)

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

    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 accepted. With worst assumptions, the figure is 5%. Beyond these figures, costs are in excess of the benefits gained, and remain so up to 100%. That includes things like fuel costs, which are actually greater due to increased base-load cycling.

    The Irish power stations are fairly old and inefficient. On a more modern grid, the 30% figure would come down to about 20%. At all times the variable supplies add some value, and take some away due to their variable nature.

    The charge applied by Arizona will offset some of this grid damage due to variability.


  • Lots of costs (Score:5, Informative)

    by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @12:17PM (#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:what cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by whistlingtony ( 691548 ) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:22PM (#45443427)

    I live off solar. It's fine. LED lighting is cheap enough and doesn't take a huge power draw. My huge power draw is the heater and the hot water heater. No problem. We have these things called Batteries... So I charge for a few hours to heat water for 15 mins. So what? It works fine. Solar panels are down around $1/watt, even for decent panels made somewhere without slave labor.

    I live in Oregon. Clouds and night time aren't that bad. It does help that my home is Tiny though.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:34PM (#45443497)

    They smooth out peaks during Summer because the hottest & sunniest part of the day where you need your AC on full blast here in Phoenix, the panels are also hitting their maximum output.

    This is not hard to figure out.

  • Re:what cost (Score:4, Informative)

    by ArbitraryName ( 3391191 ) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:49PM (#45443609)
    And that's the tradeoff. You either need to have an incredibly tiny and power efficient house, or you need to have a backup system. Even the most ardent off the grid supporters accept that [].
  • Re: what cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @01:56PM (#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 TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @02:01PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @03:03PM (#45444059)

    This thread is full of a bunch of people who aren't from Arizona and don't have rooftop solar. I, on the other hand, am from Arizona and have rooftop solar.

    I live in Tucson and have electric service with TEP. Everyone, including those with and without rooftop solar, already pays a $10/month "Customer Charge". Reading verbatim on the back of my bill, the Customer Charge is "A fixed fee that helps cover the cost of maintaining electric service to your address. This fee does not vary with usage." Solar customers, as well as everyone else, already pays $10/month to maintain the grid. Now the Arizona Corporation Commission is unfairly telling the solar customers that they have to pay more than the non-solar customers to maintain the grid.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson