Solar Today Spring 2016 : Page 12

green business by RONA FRIED, Ph.D. | news and trends Utilities: obstacles for US solar? n Warren Buffet’s annual letter to Berk-major impediment to astronomical growth. In every case, utilities make the same arguments shire Hathaway shareholders, he touts his utilities’ energy efficiency and com-that coincidentally are in the American Leg-mitment to expanding renewable energy. With islative Exchange Council (ALEC)’s model investments of $16 billion “Updating Net Meter-in renewables, he notes, ing Policies Resolu-his utilities own 6% of US tion.” That’s bolstered ...one of those solar capacity and 7% of by the Koch brothers’ wind. His 4.4 gigawatts network of some 93 utilities just of wind is six times more non-profits that mis-than that of the runner-up inform the public on killed rooftop utility. renewable energy and Yet, one of those utili-attack policies that sup-solar in Nevada ties – NV Nevada – just port it (see graphic). killed rooftop solar in In 2014, Barclays Nevada. A class-action downgraded the entire lawsuit has been filed, and electric utility sector a November referendum could reverse the decision to remove all incen-tives – retroactively! -for installing rooftop solar systems in the state. The utility success-fully lobbied regulators to add monthly “grid” fees for solar owners, while cutting payments by two-thirds for sending excess electricity to the grid. SolarCity immediately announced it would have to lay off 550 employees in the state, and SunRun left altogether, because applications to install rooftop solar came to a crashing halt the minute the new regulations were announced. The lawsuit alleges NV Nevada violated the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act and Unfair Trade Practices Act for its own enrich-ment at the expense of solar customers. I Rona Fried , Ph.D., is president of Sustainable Business.com, a thought leader on green business known for its daily news and Green Dream Jobs service since 1996. Same Story in 27 States Utilities in about 27 states are lobbying for the same results. Even in California, where you would expect more enlightened attitudes, the three major utilities tried for this … and thank-fully, lost. Net metering stays in place at the retail rate through 2019, and no surcharges are allowed, regulators announced. Buoyed by the extension of federal tax incentives, solar is booming in the US. Utilities -battling against change – have become the 12 SPRING 2016 SOLAR TODAY Copyright © 2014 American Solar Energy Society. All rights reserved.

Green Business

Rona Fried


Utilities: obstacles for US solar?

In Warren Buffet’s annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, he touts his utilities’ energy efficiency and commitment to expanding renewable energy. With investments of $16 billion in renewables, he notes, his utilities own 6% of US solar capacity and 7% of wind. His 4.4 gigawatts of wind is six times more than that of the runner-up utility.

Yet, one of those utilities – NV Nevada – just killed rooftop solar in Nevada. A class-action lawsuit has been filed, and a November referendum could reverse the decision to remove all incentives – retroactively! - for installing rooftop solar systems in the state. The utility successfully lobbied regulators to add monthly “grid” fees for solar owners, while cutting payments by two-thirds for sending excess electricity to the grid.

SolarCity immediately announced it would have to lay off 550 employees in the state, and SunRun left altogether, because applications to install rooftop solar came to a crashing halt the minute the new regulations were announced.

The lawsuit alleges NV Nevada violated the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act and Unfair Trade Practices Act for its own enrichment at the expense of solar customers.

Same Story in 27 States

Utilities in about 27 states are lobbying for the same results. Even in California, where you would expect more enlightened attitudes, the three major utilities tried for this … and thankfully, lost. Net metering stays in place at the retail rate through 2019, and no surcharges are allowed, regulators announced.

Buoyed by the extension of federal tax incentives, solar is booming in the US. Utilities - battling against change – have become the major impediment to astronomical growth. In every case, utilities make the same arguments that coincidentally are in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)’s model “Updating Net Metering Policies Resolution.” That’s bolstered by the Koch brothers’ network of some 93 non-profits that misinform the public on renewable energy and attack policies that support it (see graphic).

In 2014, Barclays downgraded the entire electric utility sector because of its stance toward solar.

Imagine calling people with rooftop solar “freeloaders” – they benefit from the grid but don’t contribute to it, argue utilities, shifting the burden to people who don’t have solar systems. Therefore, solar owners should pay monthly grid charges and get paid at lower rates for the solar electricity they send to the grid.

In fact, the opposite is true. A study in California shows that net metering results in $92 million in annual benefits to California ratepayers: solar produces the most energy during peak demand when electricity is most expensive; alleviates pressure on transmission infrastructure; and avoids the expense of building new, expensive and polluting power plants. Solar, of course, also provides environmental, public health and economic benefits.

“When someone decides to put solar panels on their roof, they not only generate clean power, but also reduce strain on the electric grid while offering financial benefits to all ratepayers,” says Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar Initiative. “We’ve got a long way to go in revamping an antiquated energy grid and growing California’s clean economy, and net metering is critical to those efforts.”

For many decades, utilities have made their profits by selling more energy to customers and by building new power plants – not by paying others for the electricity they produce on their roof.

Warren Buffet says, “Historically, the survival of a local electric company did not depend on its efficiency. In fact, a ‘sloppy’ operation could do just fine financially. That’s because utilities were usually the sole supplier of a needed product and were allowed to price at a level that gave them a prescribed return upon the capital they employed. The joke in the industry was that a utility was the only business that would automatically earn more money by redecorating the boss’s office. That’s all changing.”

Perhaps what utilities are really upset about is that they can no longer be the freeloaders.

Rona Fried, Ph.D., is president of Sustainable Business.com, a thought leader on green business known for its daily news and Green Dream Jobs service since 1996.

Read the full article at http://www.omagdigital.com/article/Green+Business/2475725/301010/article.html.

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