Koch Brother’s New Foe – Tea Party Conservatives

May 8, 2014

horsey

David Horsey in the LATimes:

Recently, I wrote about how the billionaire Koch boys, conservative state legislators and big utilities are leading the charge in several states to force private citizens with solar panels on their homes to pay extra fees to be connected to the power grid. At the time it looked as if they had won a big victory in Oklahoma, where the Republican-dominated Legislature passed a bill authorizing just such a fee scheme.

It turns out all the hard work of the anti-solar forces was immediately blunted by an executive order issued by Gov. Mary Fallin. The order directs the state energy commission to impose solar fees only as a last resort and to continue making expansion of solar power a priority.

The question is how a Republican governor in a deep red state can go against the Kochs, the most notable financial contributors to right wing causes in the country. The answer is that among the thousands of people who are installing solar panels on their roofs (at an estimated rate of one new system every four minutes) are a whole bunch of independent-minded folks with strong libertarian impulses. They may or may not belong to the tea party, but they want to be able to fend for themselves without big government or big business telling them what they can and can’t do.

To these conservative-minded citizens, the extra fee being pushed by the Kochs and the utilities is the worst thing in the world: a tax.

“Monopoly utilities want to extinguish the independent rooftop solar market in America to protect their socialist control of how we get our electricity.” That assertion comes from the website of a group named TUSK, or Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed. It is a coalition of conservatives led by former California Congressman Barry Goldwater Jr. that, so far, has been very successful in beating back the energy industry attack.

Rachel Maddow’s piece below was made before Governor Fallin’s executive order, still interesting though, as it fleshes out similar events in other states.

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22 Responses to “Koch Brother’s New Foe – Tea Party Conservatives”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    Big corporations don’t like an energy transition where the power is coming from the people. => http://energytransition.de/


    • Corporations are happy to provide services, so long as they get paid for them.  Providing services without compensation, or having to pay others while providing services to them… not so much.  Not sustainable, either.  If the company goes broke, the services disappear with it.

      Spinning reserve, regulation, reactive power, always-on power… these are all services that the net-metering customer is getting.  They should be paying an appropriate rate for it.

      • Don Osborn Says:

        Study after study shows roof top PV provides to the utility and other rate payers more value than what is “paid” through net energy metering. Even the recent utility friendly but deeply flawed E3 NEM Report released by the CPUC states that “the NEM accounts appear to be paying slightly more than their full cost of service”. While NEM customers may eat in to the profit margins of IOUs, they are NOT shifting actual costs to non-NEM customers. NEM is a fair way to account for the total costs and benefits of on-site solar generation and is much simpler and lower-cost to implement compared to alternative utility accounting methods.


        • Even the recent utility friendly but deeply flawed E3 NEM Report released by the CPUC states that “the NEM accounts appear to be paying slightly more than their full cost of service”.

          Here is the E3 report summary (123 pages).  I searched for “regulation”, and found it exactly once in the document in the section about “ancillary services”.  In that section the whopper is right up front:

          The assumption for A/S costs is set equal to 2.84% of the energy price in each hour based on an analysis correlating energy and ancillary service spending in California.

          False assumption, faulty conclusion.  The problem is that wind and PV do not behave like conventional generators, but as negative loads.  They do not provide ancillary services (and cannot, absent storage and control protocols not yet available), they consume them.  Yet net metering compensates them as if they were providing everything, including the T&D network.


        • “newly installed wind turbines have been required to provide reactive power in Germany for years, and many solar arrays recently also fell under this requirement”. There is nothing inherent to renewables preventing them from providing reactive power and grid stability any less so than any other form of power. Its a choice of putting it into the source, not an inherent limitation.

          http://www.renewablesinternational.net/warnings-about-possible-power-outages-in-germany-overstated/150/537/58027/

          http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/articleDetails.jsp?reload=true&arnumber=6186477

          The myth of stability and reactive power is a zombie. Like the undead, it keeps coming back. No matter how baseless.


          • There is nothing inherent to renewables preventing them from providing reactive power

            Except the lack of communication and control protocols, and compatible systems on both ends.

            and grid stability any less so than any other form of power.

            Neither PV nor wind can provide meaningful regulation or spinning reserve.  Doing this requires a reservoir of energy which can be tapped on demand, which the major renewables do not have.  It should surprise no one that Mr. “the grid is like a battery” would be unable—or willfully refuse to—understand this.

      • rayduray Says:

        Re: “If the company goes broke, the services disappear with it.”

        It ain’t necessarily so. What most likely happens before the grid goes dead is that FERC and the state PUC intervene and the lawyers set up Chapter 13 Reorganization with Debtor in Possession.

        The lights stay on and the creditors get I.O.U.s. Shareholders may or may not get a haircut. And society muddles through.

        ***
        I do agree with you about the necessitousness for grid customers to pay for the services you mentioned. I’m particularly impressed you know about VAR. :)

        What I don’t think grid customers should be forced to pay for is the salaries of the swindlers who lobby against rational system reform. Which would be most of the utility executives in the country. I kid you, of course.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Ray makes what should be the obvious point The greedy SOB’s can’t just pull the plug because they are not being allowed to line their pockets with what they consider to be an “acceptable profit”. With something as essential to all facets of life as electricity, society WILL muddle through. Perhaps we will see the appearance of Amwatt, which can then compete with Amtrak for subsidies.


        • Ray, if the system is cash-flow negative, no amount of DIP financing can save it.  The only thing that can is billing the costs to people who can pay them… and that’s the exact thing the utilities are complaining about right now.

          If net-metering laws as currently structured do in fact pay certain users for costs they generate instead of billing them, shouldn’t we recognize this as an injustice and fix it BEFORE having to deal with bankruptcies?  Or is the whole point to ruin, and then take over, the utility industry?

  2. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    Wow, just wow. These ideologues aren’t just bat-shit crazy, but evil too.

    If you want to make something popular, then try to ban it. The Streisand Effect will wash these selfish luddites away in a tidal wave of common sense, no matter how much money they try to buy their way with.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Great cartoon and great Maddow clip—-all TV sets should be wired to give one minute of Maddow watching for every minute of Hannity et al—-a great antidote.

      I agree with the idea that there’s going to be a backlash among people all across the political spectrum when the public realizes that the Koch machine is spending huge amounts of money to spread lies—-I’m sure that AFP’s torrent of negative and lying BS helped Obama win in VA in 2012 and the Democrats sweep the top state offices in 2013. Sooner or later, people will have to realize that the Koch’s only concern is preserving their own bottom line at the expense of everyone else.

      As Andy Lee says, not just bat-shit crazy (think Michelle Bachmann), but downright evil as well. Where can we send money to support TUSK?

  3. petersjazz Says:

    Big utility is beginning to move in Europe as well. In Spain there is now tax on solar panels and its forbidden to use batteries to store solar panel electricity.

  4. petersjazz Says:

    Heat pumps are very big in Sweden. Add one part of electricity and it will provide 4 times as much heat. Why not tax for all the electricity not generated because of the use of heat pumps? And why not a tax on LED light?


    • You have the idea. So far, Conservation has had more impact on utilities than solar. Conservation and solar look similar to utilities. So should we levy a tax on people whose demand drops because they install insulation, use LEDs and energy efficient devices? Conservation causes utilities to lose money, because they unwisely bet on and invested in large power plants that are no longer needed. Should the customers be penalized for that? For most people, the problem is that they see that as a damned if you do, damned if you don’t message. One reason for the continuing unpopularity of many utilities. It looks as if this situation will drive customers off the grid in Hawaii. Interesting thing is that the utility could be engaged in being a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. Recent rulings have exhorted the utility to do so, now let’s see if they figure out how to do it.
      Utility options? Here is how one writer puts it:
      1. Refuse to accept power into the grid that has been generated from roof-top solar systems (or pay a reduced rate for that electricity). These steps are being adopted or proposed in Hawaii and California currently. This merely creates economic incentives for homes and businesses to start thinking about domestic energy storage solutions. (We can see similar things happening in Australia, where utilities are refusing connections or upgrades and/or are forcing consumers to downsize their plans)
      2. Second, charge a connection fee to reflect the true value of the service (the ability to buy electricity whenever it is required, rather than the electricity itself). This step is being adopted in Arizona and California. But this step cements the attractiveness of battery storage to time-shift the power. (Again, this is taking place in a haphazard fashion in Australia).
      3. Third, admit defeat and become a roof-top solar developer. (German energy giants RWE and E.ON appear to have realised this, as have US companies such as NRG)
      4. We cannot think of a fourth option.

      http://beforeitsnews.com/environment/2014/04/bernstein-utilities-have-4-choices-in-solar-revolution-none-are-easy-to-swallow-2498492.html

      http://cleantechnica.com/2014/05/08/hawaiis-biggest-utility-company-forced-help-customers-install-solar-panels/


      • There are many damaging misconceptions going around in “green” circles, and they look like this:

        Conservation and solar look similar to utilities.

        You could be more wrong, but you’d have to work at it.  Conservation is a reduction in demand, generally a proportion; a LED light only draws power when on, just like an incandescent light.  Solar and wind look like NEGATIVE demand, with all the increased pressure on generators to swing their output that this implies.

        Conservation causes utilities to lose money, because they unwisely bet on and invested in large power plants that are no longer needed.

        Conservation would let utilities shut generators down, eliminating their fuel and O&M costs (mostly).  Wind and PV require utilities to operate generators for regulation and spinning reserve.  Historical rate structures assumed that such services would be in proportion to power provided, so just billed them in one rate.  Now the renewables are consuming services while adding negative load, so the cost of services goes up as the power generated goes down.  This requires a re-think of rates and/or the services themselves and how they are provided.

  5. Gingerbaker Says:

    Utility companies are now exerting “socialist control”! Who knew!?!

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Remember that TUSK is a conservative group, and conservatives always get
      their “isms” and “ists” confused—-mainly because of their cognitive dissonance problems and blind adherence to ideology.

      They can’t just tell the truth and tell it like it is—-that it’s really unfettered capitalism and corporate fascism that they’re fighting. So they fall back on the old standbys—-socialism. And if you twist logic enough, it even makes sense.


  6. Here in New Zealand generation companies are separated from the transmission of energy. While generators are either wholly or partially corporate enterprises, the national grid is government owned. Our local distribution network is a community owned trust. When the power bill arrives it has a separate charge for lines use. Any profit generated by the network is distributed back to the power users.
    Observing the development of this issue in places like the U.S. , I realise how superior our system is. Until transmission of electricity is separated from the corporates that control generation, the howls of protest will continue!


  7. […] David Horsey in the LATimes: Recently, I wrote about how the billionaire Koch boys, conservative state legislators and big utilities are leading the charge in several states to force private citize…  […]

  8. adelady Says:

    We can see similar things happening in Australia, where utilities are refusing connections or upgrades and/or are forcing consumers to downsize their plans

    I thought those restrictions only applied to how much government rebate was available. Households that want to instal many more panels than are needed to supply that household are only allowed a rebate on a certain amount. But there’s no real restriction on how much they can instal if they’re willing to pay the whole of the price themselves. I can certainly imagine that there might be a problem if every single household in a given area was willing to pay for massive PV and that region was already teetering on the edge of not being able to handle load in either direction. They might have to wait until the grid in their area was upgraded. (Though given the general over-investment in the grid there shouldn’t be too many regions like that.)

    Until transmission of electricity is separated from the corporates that control generation, the howls of protest will continue!

    Well, they don’t need to be separated entirely. But the accounting system used must separately identify each category of expense and investment so that the supplier can accurately calculate the right charges for access or connection.

    With all this fuss and bother in the US over line charges and usage charges for power, I start to wonder whether they’re unfamiliar with line rental versus call charges for phones or water consumption charges versus water service versus sewerage service charges. Or they can’t see how these things are all very much alike. All such services can be split between the costs of 24/7 availability and the actual consumption (if any) at various times. The accounts for consumers can also be separated into access/ connection/ system charges and consumption of measured water, phone calls, power, online downloads, gas and the like.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “With all this fuss and bother in the US over line charges and usage charges for power, I start to wonder whether they’re unfamiliar with line rental versus call charges for phones or water consumption charges versus water service versus sewerage service charges”.

      I have commented on this before, but in northern VA, water, sewer, natural gas, and electricity are all billed this way, with access/system and consumption charges separated. It can be done with a reasonable degree of fairness. Some folks just don’t want to do it, and I suspect the reason is that it will affect their ability to siphon off $$$$$.


  9. […] perhaps, even the tea party in the U.S. is starting to defend solar. Quite a few right wing libertarians in the U.S. have started to defend their solar/wind off-the-gridding—against the “socialist” electricity utilities and […]


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