The war on residential Solar goes national

Big utilities are afraid of distributed generation:

“Across the country state legislatures and/or utility regulatory commissions in more than 30 states are evaluating current net metering policies and are taking steps to update them to eliminate the shift in costs from customers with private solar systems to customers without these systems,” said Jeff Ostermayer, a spokesman at Edison Electric Institute (an association representing investor-owned electric companies in the United States) by email.

But the Brookings review suggests that these types of policy changes may not be warranted after all — that, rather, the benefits provided by rooftop solar actually outweigh their costs. The review points to state-commissioned studies from Vermont, Mississippi, Minnesota, Maine and even Nevada that suggest net metering results in net benefits for all energy customers.

EEI is likely the largest and most prolific industry-funded group opposing rooftop Solar, but other groups have been springing up like weeds in the last few years. Which gives you an idea of the huge amount of money being spent by utilities to undermine this (much needed) trend in energy production and use. Their argument is almost completely without merit, because they only focus on Solar net-metered customers not "paying" for grid use and maintenance. But in reality, the surplus power generated from rooftop Solar is bought and used by another customer within a few blocks of the point of generation. As opposed to power generated 50 miles away, traveling a grid that loses up to 17% of that power along the way. Get it? The utility actually saved money (profits) from that transaction, because it's more efficient and reduces the long-distance demand:

By examining the industry’s impact on a variety of variables — including energy prices, the utility’s capacity for transmission and distribution and the impact of solar on the environment and public health — the researchers concluded that the benefits of rooftop solar generation in Nevada far outweigh their costs.

The study finds that the Nevada program produces at least $7 million in benefits each year for all utility customers — and that’s only when the program’s environmental and health benefits are not considered. When these factors are accounted for, the value soars to $14 million in benefits annually.

But utilities really don't care about "efficiencies" and the benefits of distributed power generation. They make a ton of money from the construction of new power plants, and anything that reduces their baseload demand is bad news. Taking a cue from their fossil fuel overlords, they have created net-metering critics who appear to be pro-Solar:

Ken Whiteside has been a fan of solar energy for decades. His first hands-on experience was installing solar on off-grid houses around Telluride, Colorado in the 1990’s (summer in the San Juan Mtns. - somebody had to do it). From his home in Austin, Ken writes and works for widespread adoption of solar electricity, smart energy production and use, and sustainability.

Wow! He's one of the good guys! Or maybe not:

Those net metering deals under which distributed generation customers are paid full retail for power they produced and pushed back to the grid are being revisited. Utility companies are pushing back. They are reminding us that even though distributed generation customers aren’t using as many kWh’s as non-DG customers, solar power system owners are still using a company-built and maintained distribution and transmission system. And those customers still, in most cases, rely on the grid for that steady stream of electrons when the sun isn’t shining.

One logical way to address the issue is to pay distributed generation customers only the utility company’s avoided costs. But what exactly are the avoided costs? In some places, distributed generation has grown to the point where new power plant construction is being postponed. So is that an avoided cost? It certainly looks like it on the surface, but there are hugely complicating factors including that fact that utility companies make a substantial return on money invested in new infrastructure so they aren’t necessarily thrilled about not having to build a new power plant.

And those of us who sell equipment used in those plants and whose jobs depend on power plant construction are also not overjoyed. Another avoided cost is maintenance of the distribution system. Is there a portion of grid maintenance that is avoided if distributed generation grows to the point where peak loads are substantially offset? If so, how much? And how are those and a myriad of other factors valued and priced so a net metering scheme can be implemented? And what does all this mean to the fundamental electric utility business model? Then there’s the issue of equity among customers?

The less that distributed generation customers pay to support the grid, the more non-distributed generation customers will have to pay. Is that fair? When you consider that those non-distributed generation customers very likely include those who are least able to afford the resulting higher rates, the issue becomes especially sensitive. This scenario also has the potential to turn into a “rich get richer” scenario. As rates go up to compensate for the fact that fewer customers are sharing the cost of maintaining a distribution system, the return for distributed generation becomes more attractive. More people who can afford to invest do and the pool becomes even smaller forcing rates up.

Bolding mine, which is all you need to know about the motives of this particular critic. He works for a company that sells machinery and equipment to utilities for power plants. And that last paragraph, in which he creates a scenario where Solar people become an evil entity that suppresses non-Solar people, is the biggest load of methane-producing excrement I've read in quite some time.

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Environmental racism

It's the same as it ever was. Big companies making big money exploiting little people. This commentary about fracking was pulled from the New York Times lead editorial this morning:

Pennsylvania is not the only state where fracking has raised such concerns. In California’s Kern County, Latino and African-American residents are disproportionately likely to live in high-pollution areas near oil and gas wells. Environmental groups are fighting a county ordinance that could allow thousands of new wells without full environmental review. In the Eagle Ford shale field of southern Texas, a recent study found that sites for the disposal of fracking wastewater were disproportionately located in areas with high percentages of poor and minority residents. Many states have laws or policies that are supposed to ensure equal protection from environmental and health hazards, but not all are reliably enforced. And some states are striking down local laws passed by communities that don’t want fracking.

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So energy technology that people actually want this blocked by companies like to get int so energy technology that people actually want this blocked by companies like Duke energy, well technology that kills people through pollution gets a free pass.

Yep.

In every city (or decent-sized town) in America you can find evidence of environmental injustice. Whether it's landfills, expected polluting industries, frac water depositories, and any number of other health hazards, the people who are powerless end up holding the bag of stinking poison.