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Will Solar Kill the Utilities?

06/04/13

  07:47:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 306 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Utilities, Residential Solar

Will Solar Kill the Utilities?

We have written before about the potential “death spiral” facing utilities and their not so subtle backlash against solar.  That was the subject of an interesting report heard yesterday over at our favorite NPR affiliate, KPCC, h/t Take Two.

The report, by KQED science reporter, Lauren Sommer, provides a mostly balanced view of the issue with the spokesperson from PG&E repeating the “unfairness” meme that the investor owned utilities have been floating for awhile now, offset by the revealing explanation of how the death spiral might work.  It is worth taking a listen (oh, and maybe supporting your local public radio station in the meantime!):

This is a typical utility quote:

The problem, Rubin says [who works on net metering at PG&E], is that solar customers aren’t paying their fair share. “Solar customers really use the grid more intensively than non-solar customers,” he says.

Everyone pays for the grid – building and maintaining the wires and substations – through the price of electricity. By reducing their bills close to zero, Rubin says solar customers avoid paying for power lines they’re still using.

Really?  First, a solar customer who was truly net-zero is making far less use of the grid than their energy-guzzling neighbor next door.  Second, by helping to meet peak demand in the hot summer days, they are reducing the spot energy needs of the utility.  Third, that peak demand energy surplus provided by the solar customer is given a one-to-one offset against energy that they consume in the evening and night.  But in a time-of-use rate structure, the utility is trading their cheapest energy for the most expensive energy produced by the solar customer - if that is unfair to anyone, it is unfair to the solar customer.

As long as the utilities approach this debate from such a disingenuous position, their death spiral will only tighten.

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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