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Power Government Politics

Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power 488

An anonymous reader writes: Incremental improvements have been slowly but surely pushing solar power toward mainstream viability for a few decades now. It's getting to the point where the established utilities are worried about the financial hit they're likely to take — and they're working to prevent it. "These solar households are now buying less and less electricity, but the utilities still have to manage the costs of connecting them to the grid. Indeed, a new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory argues that this trend could put utilities in dire financial straits. If rooftop solar were to grab 10 percent of the market over the next decade, utility earnings could decline as much as 41 percent." The utilities are throwing their weight behind political groups seeking to end subsidies for solar and make "net metering" policies go away. Studies suggest that if solar adoption continues growing at its current rate, incumbents will be forced to raise their prices, which will only persuade more people to switch to solar (PDF).
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Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

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  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @07:25PM (#48024011)

    There's a long tradition of regulating electrical utilities -- their new-plant construction, their service build-out, and most especially their rates. If connecting single-household solar installations and buying back power from them is imposing an undue burden, and they can prove this, adjust the tariffs accordingly.

    But you shouldn't quash an entire emerging industry just to protect an old and established one. Unfortunately, that seems to be one of the main duties of legislatures.

    • Externalities are a bill to which any amount may be assigned.

      • That's like saying, "Anyone can say anything, so that means everything is BS except what I say".

        I can't tell. Do you not believe that there can be costs in a product or service that are not reflected in its price because they are passed along to others? Or were you just offering us all a Zen koan?

        • It's like saying, "prove it".

          I await the first court cases showing harm caused by these fairy tales.

        • by msauve ( 701917 )

          That's like saying, "Anyone can say anything, so that means everything is BS except what I say".

          I'll agree that it's either that, or something different.

    • by suutar ( 1860506 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @07:35PM (#48024059)

      This. I have no problem at all if they want to split my bill into two parts, a fixed cost for just being hooked up and an incremental cost for generating the electricity I consume, as long as the two costs are calculated sanely. The proper fix is to adjust the tariffs to reflect the growing reality of universal connection without universal consumption.

      • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

        That's how my bill in Texas works with Green Mountain Energy; I pay an X base fee for infrastructure etc and then Y rate per KWh, which is broken in to three rate tiers,
        below 450KWh/mo (second cheapest),
        451-900KWh/mo (the cheapest)
          and 900+KWh/mo (most expensive)
         
        I'm not on any special solar plan (nor do I have the generating capability), that's just how they've broken down my bill for the last Z years.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        This. I have no problem at all if they want to split my bill into two parts, a fixed cost for just being hooked up and an incremental cost for generating the electricity I consume, as long as the two costs are calculated sanely. The proper fix is to adjust the tariffs to reflect the growing reality of universal connection without universal consumption.

        That's what my electric utility already does. I do have a slight problem with this:

        "But you shouldn't quash an entire emerging industry just to protect an old and established one."

        Nobody is quashing an emerging industry. What they're saying is that they don't want to have to buy electricity from everybody.

        Forcing them to buy electricity was a bone thrown to the solar energy, as are the various tax incentives for installing solar. I actually want to install solar myself, badly, but I would prefer this to

      • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
        My bill already is split between a connection fee and a usage fee. If I had solar, I could put power back on the grid and get compensated, but only down to a $0 usage bill, I would still have my connection fee. The power company will not pay me a net profit ever.
    • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @07:54PM (#48024161)

      The problem the utilities have here is that solar is dropping so fast in cost that it's now cost effective on a 10 year ROI to install. You can put panels on your roof with a loan right now where the monthly loan cost will be cheaper than the cost of the electricity it offsets. That's true right now in almost every state in the union. The utilities see this and see a death spiral because their entire business is built around making money generating power from dirty central hydrocarbon based power plants.

      So the power companies do the natural thing, they try to get tariffs raised on the solar panels to make them more expensive and halt the installations. But the problem is the panel prices are dropping so fast that anything they do is just going to be temporary. The problem with chasing the "raise the cost of solar" method of competing is that at some point those increased costs make homeowner owned storage viable. Because of the screwing around with Tariffs that happened in Hawaii they now have a booming power storage market and people are beginning to disconnect from the grid entirely.

      The power companies are scared that they'll sell less power to customers with solar panels and make less money (which will hit their dividends badly) but what they should really be worried about is customers disconnecting from the grid entirely. Every customer that disconnects from the grid raises the fixed cost transfer to everyone else, which raises power prices and makes solar more attractive. You end up with a self feeding harmonics that starts a slide into a situation that doesn't just destroy the power companies dividend but destroys the company all together.

      The companies need to be evolving to be that backup power supply. They need to be shifting generation strategy and bringing online storage so they can displace the gaps so customers don't do it themselves. That's their future business, moving power around and storing it for use when the sun isn't shining. It's going to mean smaller companies and less revenue but that's better than no company at all. Forward looking states realize that the games the companies are playing with the solar tariffs right now are just that games, these states are mandating the companies invest in renewables and storage so they are ready for the change. The states without foresight are allowing the companies to put a big tariff on solar customers thereby driving them towards disconnecting from the grid entirely.

      I think centrally managed storage and distribution is better than everyone running their own storage array. These companies are public utilities, that is government granted monopolies that the taxpayer has control over. We should be encouraging solar installation and investing in the grid changes necessary to support it because no matter what the solar is coming. The costs are dropping rapidly and have reached the mass acceptance pricing. Solar is already cheaper without any subsidies than nuclear power. In a few years it's going to be cheaper than coal with the subsidies and within the decade it'll be cheaper than coal without. If we don't make the changes to the grid right now we won't be ready for that colossal shift in generation and everyone will be installing their own backup systems and disconnecting from the grid (which is going to hurt the poor and those living in apartments very hard). I'd be willing to bet that by 2050 half of the homes in the US will have solar arrays on the roof and solar will comprise nearly 50% of the generation capacity.

      I wouldn't be investing long term in residential power companies with heavy carbon assets right now.

      • The companies need to be evolving to be that backup power supply. They need to be shifting generation strategy and bringing online storage so they can displace the gaps so customers don't do it themselves.

        That sounds simple in theory. In reality? You're just blowing smoke - because online storage in the capacities required simply doesn't exist. Pumped storage in a few places, maybe, in a decade or two when the utilities finally convince the regulatory bodies to let them sell the bonds... and after four

      • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@nosPaM.gmail.com> on Monday September 29, 2014 @08:38PM (#48024383) Homepage Journal

        That's [the electric power distribution companies'] future business, moving power around and storing it for use when the sun isn't shining.

        "Are you generating more solar power than you can use? We'll give you somewhere to stick it when the sun don't shine." That'll go over nicely. :p

      • I agree that's true--if you live in the part of the world where there is enough sunny days to justify its initial expense. The southwestern USA--including California--belongs in this category, along with areas around the Mediterranean Sea, much of the Middle East, and several other places.

        In other parts of the world, long, cold winters and/or long rainy seasons could cut down on its usefulness. Indeed, in Japan, only the western half of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu have enough sunny days to justify large-scal

        • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @10:15PM (#48024761) Homepage

          "Indeed, in Japan, only the western half of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu have enough sunny days to justify large-scale rooftop solar installations."

          Which is why one of the largest solar plants opened near Sendai in northern Honshu a couple years back? What conditions are profitable depend on the technology you use, and the cost of production. And as solar cost decreases and efficiency increases more locations will be realistic.

      • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock@p o e t i c .com> on Tuesday September 30, 2014 @12:41AM (#48025227)

        you said "These companies are public utilities, that is government granted monopolies that the taxpayer has control over."

        Here is the problem in my (USA) area-
        The government and the profit-seeking utility are in collusion. The utility wants a rate increase ... they get it! The public is ignored. We once had a strong consumer advocate to counter the powerful utility lobby, but they have been emasculated. The utility is owned by a for-profit company with great resources. They can manipulate the media as well as elected and unelected officials. The taxpayer has no control over them.

        Roads are built by government (taxpayers); utilities should be run by government (taxpayers) including water, power, communications and internet. These alliances with profit making companies who have the means to manipulate government cost everyone dearly.

  • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @07:27PM (#48024019)

    If the amount of money made from the actual electricity falls too far then the cost will be transferred to a network connection costs.

    This is already the case in Australia where the cost per kw/h is predominately made up but the cost of the distribution network rather than the generation costs.

    You may see an increase in people disconnecting from the grid all together but I would suggest that will remain a fringe component for the foreseeable future. Battery costs are too high and most people's electricity consumption is very lumpy meaning they need a lot of storage. Finally people will pay for the security of mains power.

    In Australia you tend to see a feed-in tariff - ie the electricity you put into the grid is priced. For a while this was heavily subsidised meaning the feed in rate could be more than double the buy rate. Which skewed the market terribly, basically the people who could afford solar systems were funded by renters and those that couldn't.

    Now the feed in rates are a commercial competition between the various energy retailers.

    In the end someone has to provide the wires, transformers and sub-stations. Those don't care where the power comes from. If it cannot be paid for by the generators it will be paid for by the consumer directly.

    • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @07:36PM (#48024067)

      Posting to myself for additional information.

      In Queensland the breakdown in a typical bill is
      21% Generation
      24% Retail
      3% Green Schemes
      8% Solar costs
      48% Network

      Source - http://www.dews.qld.gov.au/ene... [qld.gov.au]

    • A third option: run an extension cord to the neighbour's house and pay them a monthly rate, thereby evening out the connection cost across several neighbours.

      • That only works if this usage is the fringe case - as soon as it becomes the norm the price will go to 3x. It has to. The asset must be maintained.

    • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @09:20PM (#48024551)

      If the amount of money made from the actual electricity falls too far then the cost will be transferred to a network connection costs.

      It doesn't really matter how the accounting is done, utilities are going to have to charge more for power as they sell less of it, because their fixed costs are such a large proportion of their total costs. Fixed costs account for anywhere from 75 to 100% of plant costs: http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/c... [eia.gov] (the data in table 1 appear to mean "fuel cost" when they say "variable cost").

      The utilities model is based on the notion that you can recover your capital costs (and more) over the lifetime of the plant. The rapid rise of solar in particular is putting that at risk, and utilities are caught between a rock and a hard place. They can fight by keeping power costs low, and lose, or they can fight by raising their power costs--however they want to do the accounting--and also lose.

      Personally, I hope they raise the costs. It will make low-carbon alternatives like wind and solar more attractive.

  • Pay solar at wholesale rates, or, make grid interconnect a separate fee, and charge them for that. Solar advocates, of course, can't stand the idea they should actually have to pay for the delivery of goods and services, even if it costs them a measely five bucks a month [energyandpolicy.org].

    The newly adopted fee would translate into approximately $5 for the average homeowner with a solar power installation.

    I would be willing to bet that the apportioned capital cost of power plants, maintenance, and distribution alone would amount to a third of a typical power bill.

    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @07:46PM (#48024129) Journal

      I don't know if you've been following this story, but the efforts of the energy companies to thwart any development in renewables has gone a heck of a lot further than a $5 monthly surcharge.

      In Oklahoma, Wisconsin and other states, they are requesting special taxes on solar panels. They don't even care if the money goes to them, they just want solar users penalized. Yes, this is about more than just the economics of energy. There is malicious intent.

    • by pla ( 258480 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @07:51PM (#48024147) Journal
      Pay solar at wholesale rates, or, make grid interconnect a separate fee, and charge them for that.

      Grid interconnects already appear as a separate fee in most places. Perhaps not at its fair market value, but go fuck a goat if you think I'll pay over a dollar per KW for my occasional nighttime use.


      Solar advocates, of course, can't stand the idea they should actually have to pay for the delivery of goods and services, even if it costs them a measely five bucks a month

      Try $14, for me. And yeah, I consider that fair. Ending net metering and charging me when they resell my peak-demand production for 10x what they pay me for it? Yeah, I can afford batteries, can they afford every other house going off-grid?
    • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
      here in NY we already pay separately for usage and service, usage pays for the power and service pays for lines/trucks/tree trimming/ etc
  • by Nethemas the Great ( 909900 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @07:38PM (#48024075)

    I fail to see a problem with local/green energy production. Power distribution infrastructure is terribly vulnerable, horribly inefficient, and more often than not attached to a chimney.

    Too many industries have the philosophy of "if it's broke, don't fix it." It's time to develop and employ 21st century technology, join up or stand aside. There's no reason power companies can switch their business model up a bit and adapt. Perhaps add SolarCity [solarcity.com] style businesses to their portfolio.

    • Solar city still uses conventional grid when solar panels do not provide enough electricity. All they are is an installation and maintenance company for conventional net zero solar panels.

    • Simple, the problem is that utility companies that have wallowed in the comfort of being a monopoly for basically their entire lives now have a competitor nipping at their profits, and they will do anything and everything within their power to eliminate them.

      I'll let you decide which part of that statement is the problem...

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @07:40PM (#48024089) Journal

    Electric companies don't like being forced to pay far above their normal cost for something they have to throw away by shunting it to ground. That's net metering, when done on a large scale. The light outside might LOOK ten times brighter than the lighting inside Walmart, but it's actually 10,000 times brighter. Your eyes are very good at seeing in a wide range of light - from candlelight to full sun, a million times brighter. They do so by using a logarithmic, rather than linear, scale for brightness. For the same reason, although the noon sun may APPEAR to be only twice as bright as the sun at 9:00 AM, it's actually much, much brighter. Virtually all of the solar electric is generated when the sun is bright, from about 10:00-2:00.

    What that means is that if most people had solar panels, from 10:00-2:00 they could generate as much power as they use the rest of the day. Their electric bill under net metering would be zero. However, the power company still has to provide power to them the other 20 hours per day - for free. See how that could be a problem for the utility, having to provide power for everyone, but nobody has to pay for it?

    The utility can't give them back the power generated ten hours earlier, because there is no effective way to store power at utility scale. I know someone who heard a stock tip about some cool new company with magic storage will want to argue with me on that, but I've looked into all of the options and nome of them work at scale. You can try to argue with me, but I'll make you look very, very foolish when I apply some arithmetic to your idea.

    Net metering is survivable if only 1% of people do it, because their neighbors can use their noon power. If everyone is doing net metering, you need a magic free energy source the other 20 hours per day. If you decide that solar electric implies net metering, you only end up proving solar electric to be impractical, because net metering absolutely, positively cannot ever possibly work for more than a small fraction of the population.

    On a related note, if your argument for solar power assumes that solar means solar electric, you're probably shooting yourself in the foot too. There are several varieties of solar power that work well. Solar water heaters are a no-brainer. Solar electric is probably the silliest approach that anyone seriously suggests, as shown by the trillions of dollars we've wasted on utter fail so far.

    • In LA, with a southern-facing, steeply pitched roof, my power generation today peaked at 3PM and ran within 95% of peak from 1PM to 5PM, falling off sharply at 5PM. This is just slightly ahead of the air-conditioning peak demand, which creates the peak for the utility. LA could probably withstand a lot more than 10% on net-metering, simply because solar and air-conditioning demand are so closely aligned. (They would be even more aligned if air conditioners were set to over-cool houses during peak solar g

      • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @09:04PM (#48024483) Journal

        I said most of the power is in a four-hour period. Your numbers match that, you just pointed your panels into the afternoon sun. You'd get more power, earlier in the day, by pointing them more upward. You might prefer less power later. Of course what time that is also shifts by an hour based on daylight savings time.

        You can (and probably do) also buy a system that is incapable of converting all of the peak power. In that case, your power generation will flatline not because the amount of sunlight remained steady, but because your system was incapable of converting. all of the brightest sun - you get only got 3PM power out of 1:00PM light, even though the 1:00PM light was much brighter.

    • by mcrbids ( 148650 )

      Nice to see *informed* input!

      I would argue that the problem is the flat rate pricing of $/KWH. A KWH produced at 1 AM has far less value than one produced at 7:00 PM. Why are we charging them the same? Much of the issue you mention would largely vanish if electricity prices were negotiated more frequently. EG: hourly or 15 minute increments. If there really is a surplus of power between 10:00-2:00, as you state, then the price during that time of day would be low to accommodate. This would create an incenti

      • by nadaou ( 535365 )

        For example, I read a study a while back that pointing solar panels West of due South resulted in a much better match between electricity use and demand

        That's an interesting point. From a pure kWh point of view facing them a bit to the east gets you better numbers since the crisp morning air is clearer than the late afternoon haze.

        If you have batteries it becomes a balance between storage losses in the morning versus irradiation losses in the afternoon.

        GP completely ignores the daily demand curve, especiall

      • That's a heck of an idea. Many places already have smart meters, or will soon.
        It could certainly work like you said- noontime power would be very inexpensive if a lot of people had solar. Of course, that means the economics of buying solar panels would change significantly since the buyback would reflect actual costs. You'd choose between buying your noon electricity cheaply from the power company (from your neighbors, indirectly) or selling noon power at a low rate. Solar electric systems would prob

    • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @08:34PM (#48024371)

      Sure, I'll argue the point. Perhaps your friend was referring to Aquion, the company scaling up to mass-produce saltwater batteries that they claim will be as cheap as lead-acid while lasting 10x as long and not minding being deep-cycled. So let's run the numbers, shall we?
      A quick search gave me the following base numbers:
        an average deep-cycle lead-acid battery price as $120/kWh and will last about 600 cycles, so about $0.20 /kWh/cycle. And since power cycling presumably happens daily with solar we can replace "cycle" with "day"
      Aquion claims 10x the battery life at the same price point, so that makes it $0.02 /kWh/day
      The average US home uses ~11,000kWh/year, or about 30kWh per day. We could argue whether the actual number should be lower (there is some power consumption during the day after all, especially during the summer when air conditioning runs rampant) or higher (you need buffering for extended overcast periods, assuming your grid isn't efficiently cross-connected between regions), but that's a good first estimate.

      So: 30kWh * $0.02 /kWh/day = $0.60 per day just for the power buffering, or $18 per month. Not nothing, but an eminently survivable expense.

      • "the company scaling up to build ... they claim"

        For fifty years people have been claiming their company is just about to start making some magical new energy stuff. My uncle claims he's Napoleon. Call me when it happens. Fyi, if it costs $20,000 to make something, and the government (taxpayers) pays $15,000 of that through subsidies, that's still a cost of $20,000. We all can't subsidize ourselves for thousands of dollars per month.

        • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Tuesday September 30, 2014 @12:04AM (#48025115)

          My friend who works in solar is taking the claims seriously - they're selling the things now at very competitive prices, but the current micro-factory has low volume and (I think) a bit higher cost - as is to be expected without economies of scale. Meanwhile the new large factory is not yet operational. And my other numbers were all conservative.

          First off, what crazy tangent are you going off on? Who said anything about subsidies? Let the power companies take out loans to buy the suckers and amortize the costs - they do it every time they build out any infrastructure. It's business as usual, and they may as well be investing in long-term solutions rather than building more coal-fired power plants.

          As for not all being able to finance $20,000 - isn't that part of the point of having "the grid" provide the storage? That is Aquions primary target market. You don't seem to be considering the incredible benefits power buffering brings to the power companies themselves, even without net metering. Currently they need to maintain a whole fleet of generators to be able to handle peak load, which sit wastefully idle the vast majority of the time - and they're having to build out ever more generating capacity as demand steadily increases, with new construction generally needing all sorts of expensive emissions control system, etc. Or they could buy batteries and run the existing generating capacity on a more regular basis leaving the batteries to handle the peak. Then as carbon-power gets phased out (which is looking inevitable in the long term) they'll already have the infrastructure and experience in place to handle the shift to a more variable power source. This is stuff that a smart power company should be paying attention to - it's likely to be far far less disruptive to the existing players if they start implementing incremental upgrades now than if they wait until some new company with a proven track record come in offering the local governments to build all new infrastructure from the ground up for half the price it would cost to upgrade your equipment. Start bringing the retrofit costs down now in the course of normal business.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Your analysis depends on two assumptions. First, that at the daily peak the amount of solar produced exceeds the total demand for electricity. That's actually quite likely to happen in the long term in certain locations -- sunny, densely developed residential neighborhoods for example -- but not in others -- in a neighborhood that has a steel mill. Maybe in the short term in a few places if the adoption of rooftop solar accelerates even more.

      One of the ways to alleviate this would be to improve the distr

    • by kesuki ( 321456 )

      "What that means is that if most people had solar panels, from 10:00-2:00 they could generate as much power as they use the rest of the day. Their electric bill under net metering would be zero. However, the power company still has to provide power to them the other 20 hours per day - for free. See how that could be a problem for the utility, having to provide power for everyone, but nobody has to pay for it?"

      well, your post was fairly good, except the part about 4 hours a day. from my link set the day to t

  • because soon i am going to go completely off the grid, no electricity except for solar, water will either be bottled, or if i get dig a well i will put in a lever hand pump, and for heat a wood stove, no more air conditioning and no more refrigeration, i will build a composting toilet which is legal, research composting toilets if anyone plans on going off the grid, i will figure out a way to recharge a cellphone by solar power because i do want to remain in communication with family and friends
  • Studies suggest that if solar adoption continues growing at its current rate, incumbents will be forced to raise their prices, which will only persuade more people to switch to solar.

    Which means the subsidies are effective and successful, and we should have more of them.

    Oh, wait. I thought I lived in a sane country for a second there.

  • by cirby ( 2599 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @07:44PM (#48024121)

    "These solar households are now buying less and less electricity, but the utilities still have to manage the costs of connecting them to the grid."

    The pro-solar folks think the utilities should pay this cost, instead of the people who actually incur that cost? Do tell.

    If the power companies didn't have to worry about connecting all of that moderately-erratic power to the grid, they could easily "build down" over the next decade or two - and chop lots of unprofitable customers from their systems. They could dump pretty much all of the rural customers, and wouldn't have to worry about capacity expansion in the near future. They could even shut down a lot of older power plants that are low performers, profit-wise, instead of having to fight the government to build new plants while trying to keep the old ones running.

  • by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @07:45PM (#48024127)

    Perverting the market through solar panel adoption subsidies is not a good solution. They should instead allow the true cost of solar and other power sources be reflected in the price, by only taxing and subsidizing to account for positive and negative externalities. If the government wants to promote solar, it should be pumping money into green energy research to help make solar power (and other green technologies) cheaper faster. It should not be subsidizing the purchase of current expensive and inefficient technologies. It should be facilitating the development of future technologies that are actually cheap and efficient (without subsidies).

    In fact, if the government owned the patents for these new technologies, it would have the power to lease them royalty free, further spreading their use. We want these technologies to be cheap, and we want people all over the world using them and improving them. Funneling profits to certain private corporations through subsidies is not the best way to achieve this goal.

  • Dear electric companies:

    Your time on this planet as profitable private entities has come to an end. Rejoice! You had a good run. But it has ended.

    If you succeed in eliminating net metering... Honestly, I bought a $20k solar installation; do you really think I'll put up with your bullshit instead of spending another $5k on batteries and going totally off-grid, costing you even your scammy $14/month "connection charge"?

    Think about this long and hard, boys. Right now, you get peak-usage power from me
    • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Tuesday September 30, 2014 @12:13AM (#48025159) Homepage

      do you really think I'll put up with your bullshit instead of spending another $5k on batteries and going totally off-grid, costing you even your scammy $14/month "connection charge"?

      Hmm. $5,000 up-front in order save $14/month? Those batteries will pay for themselves in only 29 years, yay! Or rather, they would pay for themselves if they lasted that long, which they definitely won't.

      So yes, the power company really does think you'll put up with their bullshit -- or at least, that most people will.

  • Think of the pattern that will become obvious. The very last customer to stay on the grid would have to pay for the entire grid. It's the reverse of the usual situation such as the first Bic lighter costing 40 million bucks but every one after the first only cost fifty cents. One huge change in the way we live might be easy to adapt to. But we are going to see huge changes coming at us almost daily soon. The electric car will be the only game in town and that will be rapidly follo
  • For a while now in Illinois, we pay separately for distribution and supply. Using the grid as pseudo-storage where you supply by day and draw by night would lower or eliminate your generation costs but not the distribution cost.

    Why would the power companies care as long as they have a viable business model?
  • The infrastructure costs can be itemized in the bill, or amortized in the rate.

    The major power company has to pay for the wires and cables of the grid in your community: why should the minor ones get to use the grid for free? The small-time (homeowner) power suppliers are making money; their connection to the grid should be charged to them. That the big power companies are asking for a fair apportionment of costs is not surprising.

    I don't have any sympathy to small power producers who want a free ride....

  • by RudyHartmann ( 1032120 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @08:19PM (#48024309)

    It's not just solar. It's everything that doesn't conform to their production methods. If they're primarlity coal fired, they're against everything that isn't coal. If thei're oil fired, they're against everything that isn't oil. Etc etc etc. They should be going with Liquid-fluoride thorium reactors. They're adverse to anything that isn't what they're already doing. But China and India are going with thorium reactors.

    • The only thing is that we may start to see a trend of going away from burning coal to generate electricity--the air pollution problems from coal burning will end this practice in the next 50-70 years. What will likely happen is in the short to medium term, we'll see a switch to burning natural gas (which has a tiny fraction of the air pollution and is cheap to install emission controls) and in the longer term eventually switch to a new generation of nuclear power plants that are extremely safe to run and us

  • by Scot Seese ( 137975 ) on Monday September 29, 2014 @09:05PM (#48024487)

    This is simply a failure of imagination.

    Utilities are in the business of sinking money into power generating and distribution capability, amortized over decades against customers' utility payments.

    Nothing is preventing the utility company from building solar thermal or solar pv facilities for the purpose of selling the power. Nothing is preventing the utility company from purchasing rooftop pv systems and reselling them to homeowners, along with skilled installation.

    Instead, they want to coast on coal plants and grid they built out, much of it long ago - and keep slamming your checks.

  • I can understand some limits, home/business owners back feeding power onto the power grid could under limited circumstances cause some issues and where they are allowed to back feed forcing utilities to pay more than they would for wholesale electricity sounds a bit much. But complaining that people aren't using enough electricity is ludicrous, the strain on utilities during the mid-day was one of the pushes for peak metering. One of the biggest causes of those higher loads are AC systems, which are used

  • Yuppers! Our local "coop" electric utility is just like this. They tried hard to kill of net metering in the legislature. When they lost they announced it as a victory - fantastic spin. They keep raising our electric rates although we already pay some of the highest rates in the country. They have a monopoly and they abuse it. The times are a changing though... Soon we'll all be able to generate our own power and we need far less power because machinery is becoming more efficient. On our farm I've been desi

  • If energy is cheaper from another source, your energy company is going to have competition and not rake in crazy profits.

    Things will absolutely go crazy the moment some company makes a cheap hybrid plugin electric car. Up until now you can get like 100,000 free miles of gasoline for what you'll save by not buying one. Once there is an economical reason to get one, everyone will want one. They'll use grid electricity at first, but then realize the benefit of having solar panels at their homes, and peop
  • I wouldn't mind paying the net metering fee, IF the subsidies for fossil fuels were removed as well.

    An article at Forbes [forbes.com] reports that coal increases health care costs by 19 to 45 cents a kwh. Oil increases the costs by 8 to 19 c/kwh, and natural gas by 1 to 2 c/kwh. Then there's the estimated cost of climate change [nas.edu], assuming we beat it. (Yes, I trust a near-unanimous group of subject matter experts. Heck, I bet those 97% would really like to be wrong, so we wouldn't need to do something about the issue.
  • He has gone to far this time.

"Here's something to think about: How come you never see a headline like `Psychic Wins Lottery.'" -- Comedian Jay Leno

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