WA-PO Exposes Direct Campaign by Energy Companies to Battle Solar Growth

From the Washington Post, an indepth look at the way in which the electric energy giants have begun to team up with the fossil fuels industry to block renewable energy.  In particular, they have started attacking home-installed solar energy systems.  The article is from March of this year, but relevant still today.

Many legislators in the state of New Hampshire have been fed lies by the energy industry, in particular PSNH and now Eversource lobbyists about the supposed negative effects of individual, off-grid power systems.  Reader take note: once agin its clear that industry has no concern about the effects of green house gases, no concern about the effects of grid dependence, especially the effects of dependence on an ever aging grid.  No, industry’s only concern, as always is profit generation and if they have to punish citizens and block sensible, progressive policy, they will do it.

Also, what most people, in particular libertarians fail to understand is that most government agencies have become portals through which industry uses government to ensure their profit streams do not get interrupted.  Rubber-stamp agencies like New Hampshire’s PUC are filled with political appointees often poorly qualified for their job and industry hacks — former employees, lobbyists, subcontractors or executives of industry.

The article is telling in its exposure of how completely co-opted our regulatory system has become and how as common sense dictates, but seemingly cannot be repeated enough, capitalist enterprise works for the good of profit not for the good of people. Any benefit to the public good that arises out of the pursuit of profit, especially when conducted by huge authoritarian corporations, comes purely as a byproduct or an accident of their operations.  Twisting government to serve themselves at the expense of the public good has become the modus operandi since even before the 19th century.

h/t to Bury Northern Pass

Read on:


Utilities Wage Campaign Against Rooftop Solar

By Joby Warrick March 7

Three years ago, the nation’s top utility executives gathered at a Colorado resort to hear warnings about a grave new threat to operators of America’s electric grid: not superstorms or cyberattacks, but rooftop solar panels.

SolarCraft workers install solar panels on the roof of a home in San Rafael, Calif. According to a report by the Solar Foundation, the solar industry employs more workers than the coal-mining industry. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

If demand for residential solar continued to soar, traditional utilities could soon face serious problems, from “declining retail sales” and a “loss of customers” to “potential obsolescence,” according to a presentation prepared for the group. “Industry must prepare an action plan to address the challenges,” it said.

The warning, delivered to a private meeting of the utility industry’s main trade association, became a call to arms for electricity providers in nearly every corner of the nation. Three years later, the industry and its fossil-fuel supporters are waging a determined campaign to stop a home-solar insurgency that is rattling the boardrooms of the country’s government-regulated electric monopolies.

The campaign’s first phase—an industry push for state laws raising prices for solar customers—failed spectacularly in legislatures around the country, due in part to surprisingly strong support for solar energy from conservatives and evangelicals in traditionally “red states.” But more recently, the battle has shifted to public utility commissions, where industry backers have mounted a more successful push for fee hikes that could put solar panels out of reach for many potential customers.

[Solar energy’s new best friend is . . . the Christian Coalition]

In a closely watched case last month, an Arizona utility voted to impose a monthly surcharge of about $50 for “net metering,” a common practice that allows solar customers to earn credit for the surplus electricity they provide to the electric grid. Net metering makes home solar affordable by sharply lowering electric bills to offset the $10,000 to $30,000 cost of rooftop panels.

A Wisconsin utilities commission approved a similar surcharge for solar users last year, and a New Mexico regulator also is considering raising fees. In some states, industry officials have enlisted the help of minority groups in arguing that solar panels hurt the poor by driving up electricity rates for everyone else.
Utility companies take on solar power View Graphic

“The utilities are fighting tooth and nail,” said Scott Peterson, director of the Checks and Balances Project, a Virginia nonprofit that investigates lobbyists’ ties to regulatory agencies. Peterson, who has tracked the industry’s two-year legislative fight, said the pivot to public utility commissions moves the battle to friendlier terrain for utilities. The commissions, usually made up of political appointees, “have enormous power, and no one really watches them,” Peterson said.

Industry officials say they support their customers’ right to generate electricity on their own property, but they say rooftop solar’s new popularity is creating a serious cost imbalance. While homeowners with solar panels usually see dramatic reductions in their electric bills, they still rely on the grid for electricity at night and on cloudy days. The utility collects less revenue, even though the infrastructure costs — from expensive power plants to transmission lines and maintenance crews — remain the same.

Ultimately, someone pays those costs, said David K. Owens, an executive vice president for Edison Electric Institute, the trade association that represents the nation’s investor-owned utilities.

“It’s not about profits; it’s about protecting customers,” said Owens, said. “There are unreasonable cost shifts that do occur [with solar]. There is a grid that everyone relies on, and you have to pay for that grid and pay for that infrastructure.”

Nearly 174,000 people work in the solar industry compared with close to 80,000 in the coal industry. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Whether home-solar systems add significant costs to electric grids is the subject of intense debate. A Louisiana study last month concluded that solar roofs had resulted in cost shifts of more than $2 million that must be borne by Louisiana customers who lack solar panels. That study was immediately disputed by clean energy groups that pointed to extensive ties between the report’s authors and the fossil-fuel lobby.

Other studies commissioned by state regulators in Nevada and Mississippi found that any costs are generally outweighed by benefits. For one thing, researchers found, the excess energy generated by solar panels helps reduce the strain on electric grids on summer days when demand soars and utilities are forced to buy additional power at high rates. Other experts note that the shift to solar energy is helping states meet new federal requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also producing thousands of new jobs. The residential solar industry currently employs about 174,000 people nationwide, or twice as many as the number of coal miners.

“Independent studies show that distributed solar benefits all ratepayers by preventing the need to build new, expensive power plants or transmission lines,” said Matthew Kasper, a fellow at the Energy & Policy Institute, a pro-solar think tank. “Utilities make their money by building big, new infrastructure projects and then sending ratepayers the bill, which is exactly why utilities want to eliminate solar.”
Solar-panel costs plunge

Residential solar panels have been widely available since the 1970s, but advances in the past decade have transformed home solar energy in many areas from an expensive novelty to a cost-competitive alternative to traditional power.

The average price of photovoltaic cells has plummeted 60 percent since 2010, thanks to lower production costs and more-efficient designs. Solar’s share of global energy production is climbing steadily, and a study last week by researchers from Cambridge University concluded that photovoltaics will soon be able to out-compete fossil fuels, even if oil prices drop to as low as $10 a barrel.

To read the rest of this article go to Washington Post Utilities Wage Campaign Against Rooftop Solar

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