Why Solar Customers Should Keep an Eye on Utility Companies

Why Aren’t Utilities 100% on Board With Solar Progress?

solar and utilities

On one hand, it seems like utilities should be excited about solar energy’s rapid progress. After all, residential solar benefits them in more ways than one.

When consumers produce their own power, they often generate more than they need, and utilities are able to purchase that power from them. In doing so, they avoid the environmental costs associated with generating power from fossil fuels. Plus, they’re able to cut distribution and right-of-way costs, and forestall costly power plant upgrades.

However, many utilities seem to suffer from a loss of perspective. Despite the proven benefits, they seem dead set on stifling solar growth. They raise the point that solar customers use their infrastructure, but sidestep the costs associated with maintaining it, and claim that solar adopters will force them to raise rates for the rest of their customers.

Solar advocates refute these claims, saying that the ratepayer impact of widespread solar adoption will actually be rather small. The real issue is utility investor ROI.

Some utilities are more forward-thinking than others, but many are still coming around to the idea of a solar future. They’d rather fight to maintain the status quo than willingly participate in solar energy’s bright future.

That’s why solar customers should keep a close eye on utility companies.

Solar Hit the Ground Running

There’s no denying that solar’s exponential growth has been due in no small part to renewable portfolio standards and other incentives aimed at encouraging growth in renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions, and diversifying the energy market.

RPS solar carve-outs require utilities to source a percentage of the power they sell from solar. If they’re unable or unwilling to do so, they’re often required to purchase renewable energy credits on the open market from consumers. Net metering allows solar adopters to receive electricity bill credits for the excess power they feed back into the grid. PPAs let customers contract with solar providers and purchase their power at a fixed rate.

Solar Energy Under Attack

These are exactly the sorts of initiatives under attack by Big Energy.

In Arizona, the utility was able to successfully push through net metering fees. In Hawaii, the utilities claimed that the distribution circuits were simply too full for more solar arrays to be installed. Kansas recently saw its net metering policies severely curtailed, and Missouri utilities have been trying to raise fixed charges, in spite of evidence that net metering actually saves money.

These attacks on solar have been happening just about everywhere. It seems as though utilities know solar is a big part of the future of energy, but they’re still trying to figure out how to maintain their longstanding monopolies. And until they do, they’re not willing to go along peaceably.

Keep You Eyes on the Horizon

As a solar customer or prospective solar adopter, you’d be wise to keep an eye on the war on solar. At this point, solar energy’s momentum is unstoppable, but changes to existing laws could affect solar’s amazing value proposition.

You may also want to consider joining solar advocacy groups such as the Solar Energy Industries Association, the American Solar Energy Society, and the Alliance for Solar Choice.

[Photo Via: Apricum-Group]