Koch Brother’s War on the Free Market: Fined for Using the Sun

December 27, 2013

More on the right wing war on solar energy.
Utilities have a point that, as more and more customers invest in solar and renewable energy, the costs of maintaining the larger electric grid do not go away.

The answer is, of course, new regulatory structures that will allow for a gradual change from  the centralized grid to a more distributed one. The technology is going to take us this way, (think television, internet, and cell phone) and we will be looking at a major train wreck in the coming decade without some creative thinking.

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7 Responses to “Koch Brother’s War on the Free Market: Fined for Using the Sun”

  1. MorinMoss Says:

    I’ve said more than once that utilities were stupid to not get behind the solar rooftop revolution and find ways to make it work to their advantage without penalizing customers.

    One of the impacts of not doing that is quickly becoming apparent in CA

    With over 150,000 small rooftop systems, there’s nearly 3GW of PV generation that the utilities can’t monitor.

    As California is moving ahead with their Million Solar Roofs programme, this is only going to get worse unless the utilities get proactive

    And no, trying to impose fines or blocking systems from the grid is NOT going to work here.

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2013/07/californias-invisible-solar-problem


  2. Morin – agreed. Why should utilities complain. Smarter for them to participate in and enhance inevitable change rather than get run over by it. If they fail, it’s their own fault. Progressive utilities will flourish.vthis may take a little bit of muscular convincing from the voters, then thru government. The energy future will include renewables, EVs, and storage using EVs. Local solar and microgrids will feature prominently. Interference from resisting utilities will fail because fuels are are what old fashioned centralized grids are all about. As fuel costs rise, that model fails.


  3. The irony of the cartoon is they DON’T own the uranium (it comes from places as varied as Australia, Canada and Kazakhstan), and at about 0.7¢/kWh cost for LEU fuel there is very littie money in it.  That is why the gas lobby works so hard to shut down nuclear plants:  there are billions of dollars to be made drilling, shipping and selling gas to electric utilities, if the carbon-free baseload providers can be put out of business in the name of “clean energy”.

    The answer is, of course, new regulatory structures that will allow for a gradual change from the centralized grid to a more distributed one.

    I thought the goal was supposed to be fixing the climate, which includes a radical reduction (no less than 80%) in carbon emissions.  What does decentralization have to do with anything?  Concentrating solar power is not safe for residential areas, and storing PV requires expensive batteries.

    Maddow’s complaints about ALEC are disingenuous.  So ALEC wants mandates repealed.  But if these systems are cheaper than grid power, who’d need a mandate to get people to use them?  And the objection to “free rider” fees is also disingenuous.  Residential power rates have traditionally been set based on the costs of supplying the typical customer demand profile (and basing the monthly bill on the number of revolutions of the electric meter in the past 30 days, instead of recording hour-by-hour or even finer data).  If someone radically changes their demand profile and pays far less to the utility, but still wants the same amount of electric power “on tap” against need, shouldn’t the whole basis for their rates be re-examined?  Of course… but the “hope and change” people seem to believe they can change everything, with no consequences they don’t like.

    we will be looking at a major train wreck in the coming decade without some creative thinking.

    Any attempt to ignore physical or economic realities will cause a train wreck.  There’s no better proof of this than the commentator in the second video claiming that forcing utilities to buy back electricity at retail rates (effectively, paying the account holder for the use of the utility’s wires, transformers, reactive power, regulation and everything else) is a “free-market” measure.  In a real free market utilities would pay what the power is worth to them, and could refuse to buy it at all.


  4. The truly ironic thing is that the more utilities squirm and resist change , the quicker they lose. Solar plus EV users with Vehicle to home will avoid peak rates no matter what utilities do. Utilities will foster vehicle to home by penalizing solar users for supplying energy. As solar expands, daytime rates will drop. This will expand the duck curve. http://blog.rmi.org/blog_2013_10_29_renewables_bird_problem
    Daytime rates will drop in the southwest because neighboring states will utilize solar even if Arizona does not. Meanwhile, EV users will switch to daytime charging when daytime rates plummet and use vehicle to home to avoid evening peak rates. Solar will have storage. This is the end of the centralized fossil fuel driven utility model. DE is better, more affordable, and reliable. As fuel costs inevitably rise, the trickle will turn to a torrent. Attempting to stem it through legislation is impossible. Utilities that attempt to resist will find their demand plummeting as users go off grid. Errant Utilities will quickly enter the vehicle to grid and to home market as they realize their lost opportunity.

  5. adelady Says:

    If these utilities want to maintain any semblance of a future, they have to change their billing practices. Pronto. Make every bill to every consumer, domestic and business alike, standardised so that there is a fixed supply/ facility/ access/ service charge appropriate for the premises in question with separate charges for power actually used.

    Once that’s done, they’ll be assured that people and businesses will be able to make better judgements and they’ll be assured of income to maintain the grid. Customers may want to take on the capital costs of installing systems big enough with enough storage capacity to go off-grid or they may prefer to spend less – on a system large enough for their usual or basic usage but with the grid as their “battery” to accommodate fluctuations in their use. That’s what all but very few people do here (in South Australia). Even if a customer has a solar system that always produces more power than the household uses, the credit they get in return is always reduced by a service charge allocated to the power supplier for grid maintenance.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “Make every bill to every consumer, domestic and business alike, standardised so that there is a fixed supply/ facility/ access/ service charge appropriate for the premises in question with separate charges for power actually used”.

      That is actually the way it is now done in much of the U.S. Both my gas and electric utilities in northern VA now separate out the cost of the gas or electricity from the “system” charge needed to build and maintain the gas pipes and electrical grid.

      In the case of the gas company (Washington Gas), which is a for-profit operation, it allows them to charge a “system fee” all year round, even though I use natural gas only for heating, as many of us here do. They are constantly sneaking in increases and trying to slip things past the regulators so that they can make a big enough “profit”.

      The electric company, on the other hand, is a Co-op that goes back to the Rural Electrification program of the New Deal era. We are all “shareholders”, and our bills are reduced by the periodic distribution of surplus “capital credits” and other $$$ distributions when they have been able to negotiate a “good deal” on wholesale electricity.

      Although the electric folks are also “empire builders” and their bureaucracy grows ever larger, it is still a better deal than the gas situation. My electric bills have been dropping over the years, and it’s not all because of the energy-saving things I’ve done. My gas bill, on the other hand, has dropped little, even considering that the price of gas has dropped, and I still send them $$$$ twelve months a year even though I use gas only for six (and for only three heavily).


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