Home Topics in Depth Science And Environment Southwestern utilities back down from rooftop solar fight

  • leftcoastmountains (1913 posts)
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    Southwestern utilities back down from rooftop solar fight

    Not long ago, major electric utilities in much of the Southwest seemed bent on chasing rooftop solar companies out of the region. They saw the booming industry as a threat to their profits and sought rate changes that would make solar panels less financially attractive to homeowners. The electric companies advocated slashing the compensation those customers get for sending their excess power to the grid and adding new fees to their electric bills.

    Because the electric companies are monopolies, state regulators have to approve such changes. In late 2015, the Public Utility Commission of Nevada set new rates that were so unfavorable to solar customers that they nearly snuffed out the residential solar business in the state. The number of households applying to connect solar panels to the grid dropped from a peak of nearly 3,000 in August 2015 to just 14 in July the next year. The biggest solar installation companies left the state, laying off thousands of workers.

    But that’s not the end of the story. The public was outraged, and its objections resulted in a surprising shift: gradual rollback of the commission’s anti-solar decision. In November, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to do away with utility monopolies. The public utility commission restored higher compensation rates for existing solar customers statewide and future customers in northern Nevada. It’s considering doing the same in the southern part of the state.
    Now, the biggest electric utility in Arizona seems to have taken a cue from Nevada. The Arizona Public Service last week reached a settlement with solar installation companies, homeowner groups, local governments and other stakeholders. That will, by all accounts, keep the residential solar panel industry in business for years to come. The settlement doesn’t resolve a lawsuit, but instead aims to avoid a protracted fight like what has gone on in Nevada. If approved by regulators, the Arizona Corporation Commission, that settlement will set the terms for rooftop solar for decades.

    http://www.hcn.org/articles/southwestern-utilities-back-down-from-rooftop-solar-fight

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  • HassleCat (354 posts)
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    1. The old PURPA regulations are probably dead by now.

    They specified that the consumer would be charged and paid the same for power going either way.  In other words, if the electric company charges you 15 cents for a kWH of electricity they provide to you, they have to pay you 15 cents for a kWH of electricity your solar panels send back to their grid.  Of course, they f***ing hated that because it meant they couldn’t make a profit on the electricity you sold them.  Some of them got their utility commissions to approve a lower rate of payout, based on some various reasons: they paid to build and maintain the infrastructure, etc.  Then they wanted to levy outright penalties against solar and wind homes, based on some idea that it was just too, too hard – poor babies! – to deal with all these panels and propellers and lions and tigers and bears, oh my!  Now that we have a pretty large number of solar homes, people are fighting back.