Thursday, December 05, 2013


The Guardian published this yesterday as part of its ongoing investigation of ALEC:
An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels – casting them as "freeriders" -- in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned.

Over the coming year, the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) will promote legislation with goals [including] penalising individual homeowners....

Further details of Alec's strategy were provided by John Eick, the legislative analyst for Alec's energy, environment and agriculture program.

... He said Alec wanted to lower the rate electricity companies pay homeowners for direct power generation -- and maybe even charge homeowners for feeding power into the grid.

"As it stands now, those direct generation customers are essentially freeriders on the system. They are not paying for the infrastructure they are using. In effect, all the other non direct generation customers are being penalised," he said.

Eick dismissed the suggestion that individuals who buy and install home-based solar panels had made such investments. "How are they going to get that electricity from their solar panel to somebody else's house?" he said. "They should be paying to distribute the surplus electricity."
Wait -- these people are generating their own solar energy for their own use with their own solar systems, which means they need to buy little or no energy from traditional suppliers. Isn't one of the right's main arguments against the Affordable Care Act that it's immoral and unconstitutional to compel citizens to buy a product or service they say they don't need or want, in this case health insurance? And doesn't the right believe this despite the fact that everyone eventually obtains medical care from the system, with the cost being shifted to those who can pay for care whenever someone who can't pay shows up at the emergency room? Doesn't the right deny that we have a health care "grid," insisting it's all just a set of individual consumer choices? So the right believes that the solarized should be forced to pay for the energy grid even when they're not buying from it, but the ACA's individual mandate is evil?

I'll grant that there may be some merit to the argument that solar customers should pay to maintain a grid in which they participate, as suppliers and (perhaps during cloudy periods) as customers. I'm not unswervingly opposed to such payments, although I'd like to know more about the economics. However, if this is representative, the energy companies' idea of an appropriate payment is outrageous:
In November, Arizona became the first state to charge customers for installing solar panels. The fee, which works out to about $5 a month for the average homeowner, was far lower than that sought by the main electricity company, which was seeking to add up to $100 a month to customers' bills....
Twelve hundred bucks a year? Seriously?

ALEC, as the story makes clear, just want to prevent a changeover to renewables by any means necessary, on behalf of member companies in that makes gobs of money from traditional energy sources. Obviously they're going to defend their turf. The hypocrisy is just the oily icing on the cake.


Victor said...

And don't find any oil on your property.
You can't afford it!!!

Michael said...

Nothing like penalizing homeowners for trying to improve their property...

I had a 2.1Kw grid tied system installed in 2010. Louisiana and federal tax credits paid a major portion of the cost (which also spurs economic growth in the industry)...but a net meter charge would basically eat away any savings on my monthly bill.

Lots of grid tied systems , mine included, offset but don't completely end the need to be on the grid. The sun doesn't shine at night, and all but the most efficient central air conditioners need more electricity than you can get from a small array.

My house isn't small, but it's not that big either --1300 square feet, with a 5 ton central air unit (I've got high ceilings). Offseason the panels might produce half the energy I use, but offseason (i.e., no a/c) is short down here.

Aunt Snow said...

those direct generation customers are essentially freeriders on the system. They are not paying for the infrastructure they are using.

Huh? They're generating power, that's not free-riding, that's CONTRIBUTING!

Examinator said...

Wow! This topic really emphasises the TWO interests at play.
Firstly, let's be clear about the Business detests Home generation, Simply put it means less consumers to spread the cost of single (mass/centralized) producer of Power's (business model) infrastructure.
As Steve pointed out, the more consumers the wider the amortisation (spreading)of the costs. However, if one looks a little closer it is business that requires the most (expensive) infrastructure. Look at the power lines to your house then look at those going to say a smelter. Then compare the unit cost per Kw H difference between the two...Hmm who do you think is getting the most cost benefit?
Next one needs to consider the MASSIVE government subsidies various levels of government provide to both High business consumers (say a smelter). And then let's not forget the Generosity of the public purse to the Generators, either by tax holidays, grants, guarantees of minimum prices....without which the model would fail big time.

They claim that they pay more tax (hmm maybe) employ people who pay tax and those people piggy back off the trunk lines for the businesses...... Yeeessss But! Does this model finish up a net gain for the public purse? Er.... no! But the profit does count as national (?) wealth …. sort of. We're paying for the profit and therefore the jobs.... Contrary to the 'business' (read capitalist spin) their purpose is not to provide/guarantee jobs (the society people) just Capitalists' (a minority's profit). They assert that without business the public would suffer but in reality it is a symbiotic arrangement, without people there'd be no profit.
In reality this is an elaborate distribution/ponzi scheme to benefit the minority. What it isn't is market forces (supply and demand, level playing field) true capitalism as writ.

It is beyond doubt that if Governments were to spend equal largess ($) on alternative power generation research and business models we could come up with a distributive network system that would work and be less finite resource/ environmentally destructive. But it would mean vested interests would lose out. So much for competition driving innovation etc.

Examinator said...

Part 2
Now, Aunt Snow and Michael's perspectives are both flawed.
Aunt Snow most roof top systems are net consumers not generators...the expensive infrastructure is still needed.
Michael still relies on the public purse to put his system in and he is a net consumer...same argument.
Now what is wrong is that if the rooftop consumer was TOTALLY independent of the grid then why should they pay network charges. (It is more that possible but under the current situation the payback/break even point for the consumer is a long way off see latest battery and multi generation techniques)...Answer it is law that everyone be connected to the grid (guess who lobbied for that and whose business model it suits?) so much for the republican libertarian spirit.
I know of a rural property where the house is back from the road and put in Large panel arrays because there wars no power available then but, a neighboring property was subsequently subdivided and they were forced to pay ( 10's of thousands of $) for unwanted poles etc on their property to connect them to the unwanted grid.

Finally, my guess is that we will never be a just series of rooftop generators (consider the poor etc) but rather an overlap of local distributed mixed technologies. I would if I could subsidise only those installations that were NET GENERATORS... to compensate for those who can't afford them. I'd also suggest hat a distributed system would give a both a net gain in jobs(especially local) and cheaper to (all) consumers, it's all a matter of the locally appropriate models. The technology EXISTS, now TODAY! The problem is and always has been...vested interests.