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Rooftop Solar Dims Under Pressure From Utility Lobbyists

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by dgpcolorado, Jul 9, 2017.

  1. dgpcolorado

    dgpcolorado high altitude member

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    Not news to most of us here, however it appears that utilities are being successful in many states in getting net metering killed:

    Rooftop Solar Dims Under Pressure From Utility Lobbyists

    I am fortunate that the little power co-op — 13,000 meters in four counties — which serves my remote, rural house in the mountains, is strongly supportive of renewables, reflecting the wishes of the members/owners.
     
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  2. ThisIsTrue

    ThisIsTrue Dismember

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    I'm in that same co-op, and they actually paid me $2K to add 14 panels to my house. They understand the benefits of adding power to their grid during the day!
     
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  3. Vern Padgett

    Vern Padgett Proud and Grinning Model S90D owners

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    "Homeowners with solar panels “avoid paying for use of the grid, even though they use it almost constantly to buy or sell electricity,” read a talking point prepared by Indiana’s local investor-led utilities group ... "

    We are with Southern California Edison. We were paying $1.21 a month for "transmission fees" and now it is $10 a month for same. Our balance on our last bill was negative $61. I'm guessing we are paying our share of grid use?
     
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  4. dgpcolorado

    dgpcolorado high altitude member

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    I pay an $18/month "access charge" that helps pay for the grid that I use; it has been going up in stages. Several years ago I was told by a co-op insider — now the general manager — that if costs were evenly distributed it would be about $24/month, so I am still being subsidized somewhat by other customers. Our access charge figures to be much higher than larger utilities since we have so few meters and the transmission lines and other equipment are spread out over hundreds of square miles of some of the most rugged terrain in the lower 48.

    I don't have a problem with paying to support the grid.
     
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  5. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    Utilities long ago were set up to generate power and sell it. The distribution system was a necessary evil. They priced their electricity to include a grid charge. They get a rate of return (8% or so) on all of their investments. If they build a new power plant or add a transmission line, they increase their capital and the amount of money they earn.
    Of course, today, most utilities buy electricity from independent generators and solar, wind, etc. and generate less. They are resisting these changes since they have less capital on which to base their return on investment. They really are in the grid management business today but their pricing is still set up to earn money by selling power. They should switch to a grid connection fee for all of their customers based on the size of service and then sell electricity at lower cost. This would pay for the grid.
    When I install solar and feed that into the grid, they don't earn a return on my investment (I earn the return).
    California now has a situation where there is a surplus of power. This is blamed on "too much renewable power" but the real situation is that the power companies continue to build natural gas plants that aren't needed. They can get a good return their investment in gas plants whether or not they are needed (from the CPUC) but the power isn't needed so they have to try to export it.
     
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  6. Brando

    Brando Member

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    You also saved capital expense (and the interest payments) for the utility who didn't need to build more power plants (usually gas, peaker plants).
     
  7. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    From the utilities point of view, they want to build more gas peaker plants since they can add that to their capital and earn a guaranteed 8% return on it. When you build a solar plant, they don't earn anything on it.
    This is the problem in California. The utilities keep building more gas peaker plants which give them a return but which are not needed.
     
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  8. gavine

    gavine Petrol Head turned EV Enthusiast

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    If net metering goes away, that makes Powerwalls more compelling. It's comforting to know that the option is there if your utility tries to screw solar homes.
     
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  9. dgpcolorado

    dgpcolorado high altitude member

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    The co-op world is different from regular utilities. Three dozen or so co-ops buy electricity from a generation company called "Tristate". Tristate currently limits the amount of co-op generation to 5%. My co-op is trying to get that number raised so that they can bring more locally generated renewable energy on-line, in accordance with membership wishes. Tristate, in turn, is owned by member co-ops, I believe.

    The co-op needs revenue to build and repair transmission lines and other infrastructure as well as for office overhead for billing and employee support. They also need to buy electricity from Tristate and pass that cost on to members. They can do this by adjusting the rates for the fixed monthly access charge and the various rates for electricity provided, whether a fixed amount per kWh or some sort of demand charge rate structure. Tristate bills using a demand rate structure IIRC. If the access charge doesn't completely cover overhead some of that cost can be folded into the electricity usage rate structure.However, the co-op does try to be fair to its members because we members own it.

    It is all very different from a typical for-profit utility. The co-op system was created to serve rural areas that weren't attractive to the utility industry back in the early days, due to the high cost of serving large areas with few customers.
     
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  10. SageBrush

    SageBrush 2018: Drain the Sewer

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    How does that accounting work in a net -metered set-up where where the meter is zero ?

    Perhaps stated better, is the 5% based on local generation or local export to the grid ?
     
  11. dgpcolorado

    dgpcolorado high altitude member

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    IIRC, the 5% does not include net metering. Rather, it is for generation projects, such as small-scale hydro, for which the co-op uses wholesale pricing generation contracts. The co-op has maxed out its 5% and would like to allow more renewable generation projects to be developed within its area.
     
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  12. SageBrush

    SageBrush 2018: Drain the Sewer

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    Good to hear. I live south of you in the same Tri-state service region but served by Empire electric. I have been very happily surprised at how amenable they have been to home PV, though I'm sure my ~ $30 a month connection fee is a big part of the reason. I don't begrudge them though since everybody pays the same, net metering is a great benefit, and I presume rural locations really do have larger expenses per hook-up.
     
  13. dgpcolorado

    dgpcolorado high altitude member

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    I feel the same about my access charge here.
     
  14. TheTalkingMule

    TheTalkingMule Active Member

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    Paying $360 a year just to remain connected seems a bit steep to me considering you provide a net positive service to the entire grid. By supplying the grid with excess electricity at peak hours in peak season you're eliminating the need for additional expensive power plant build-out. Where's your compensation for that?

    Just because everyone is paying the same, doesn't mean you're not getting hosed. It's in the interest of legacy utilities to boost static charges for all so they can charge less for electricity and still maintain profits. You could very well be subsidizing non-solar ratepayers.
     
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  15. SageBrush

    SageBrush 2018: Drain the Sewer

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    #15 SageBrush, Jul 17, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
    1. Net metering
    2. Purchase of my excess generation at retail rate

    My co-op does not have any generating facilities and so far as I know they pay a 24/7 wholesale rate. Thus the discussion re: tri-state

    Personally, I am not very price sensitive -- I want clean energy and I don't care if it is more expensive than the dirty alternative.
    But in actual fact I make out like a bandit from putting up PV+EV, and that is important for widespread dissemination of the technologies. So even if you are right that my local co-op benefits -- great. All parties happy is a recipe for success.
     
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  16. dhanson865

    dhanson865 Active Member

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    For those without solar that would push them to a smaller array with a powerwall vs the prior choice of a larger array without powerwall. Imagine how many panels smaller your system would be if you reallocate $5000 of the system cost from panels to storage.
     
  17. SageBrush

    SageBrush 2018: Drain the Sewer

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    That, or a smaller PV generation that is consumed completely on-site in real time.
     
  18. dhanson865

    dhanson865 Active Member

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    If you want to generate 30% of your power then the fixed costs of adding PV swamp the per panel costs.

    If you want to generate 70% of your power you'll still over generate at some time in the day and either need storage or net metering or you lose power generated with no benefit to you.

    If net metering is in play you are better off increasing the size of the system than trying to always keep it below consumption.

    If storage is in play your max generation vs a fixed cost got reduced by the price of storage.

    Even if somehow the 70% scenario exactly mirrored your consumption (smart load?) you'd still be better off buying more panels to get to a higher percentage if net metering were still in play.
     
  19. SageBrush

    SageBrush 2018: Drain the Sewer

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    That is changing quickly as cheap Chinese inverters enter the market, local electricians compete, and a PV set-up is increasingly DIY.

    I agree with you that the smart money choice is different where net metering is available.
     
  20. swaltner

    swaltner Member

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    What off-grid battery system can YOU acquire AND maintain for $360/year?

    Your compensation for participating in a net-metering plan is for getting retail (and not wholesale) pricing for the electricity that you export to the grid and also avoiding the expense of your own on-site battery system to avoid sending power to the grid.

    Both parties benefit from net-metering. To argue they don't is disingenuous. Feel free to argue the relative value of the benefit that each party receives, but not to say that it's just a one-way street in either direction.
     
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