Why Some Utilities Are Against Solar
Judging by the rhetoric coming from some traditional utilities, solar energy is going to cause big problems… not just for the utilities themselves, but for their loyal customers, as well. Utilities say those who continue to purchase their power in the traditional fashion will be forced to shoulder more than their share of the cost of grid infrastructure upkeep because of solar energy’s continued widespread adoption.
But when the facts are laid bare, it becomes clear that while utilities are couching this argument in ostensible concern for their customers, they’re actually doing their best to hold on to the monopoly they’ve enjoyed for so long.
For a long time, the arrangement benefited utilities and their shareholders: customers basically had no choice when it came to how they could purchase energy. But now, solar energy is upending that paradigm.
But even as the they were crying foul, numerous studies have found that distributed energy production in the form of net metering arrangements with solar adopters actually benefits utilities more than they’d like to admit.
What’s Net Metering?
If you’re just beginning to immerse yourself in the jargon of the solar world, you’re probably wondering what net metering is and how it works.
Here are the basics: during peak production hours, many solar arrays produce more energy than their owners actually consume. This power can be fed back into the utility grid and used to satisfy the energy needs of neighboring power consumers. But when night falls, solar households typically draw power from the grid, just like they did before the solar panels were installed.
Under net metering laws, utilities are required to credit, at retail rates, the amount of excess electricity that solar users feed back into the grid. For solar households, this arrangement makes going solar much more attractive and affordable.
How Utilities Benefit From Solar
It’s clear that net metering benefits owners of solar panels, but how do utilities fare? Actually, numerous independent studies have found that the utilities benefit quite substantially from net metering.
For one thing, net metering allows utilities to reduce their own carbon emissions. For another, it allows them to forestall costly plant upgrades when energy demand increases. In addition, net metering reduces transmission losses by allowing energy to be consumed close to the generation source.
And, when energy demand is at its highest, distributed energy production reduces the need for often-inefficient auxiliary generators.
From avoided capacity investment to an overall reduction in environmental compliance costs, reduced public health liability to increased grid resiliency, it’s clear that incumbent utilities benefit more from net metering than they’d have us believe.
Solar Is Good for Society
Solar energy is growing by leaps and bounds, and that’s a very good thing. It’s a clean, renewable energy source that reduces our reliance on fossil fuels and has the potential to help stem the tide of climate change.
[Photo Via: Projemel]