By Jay Powell
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is lead on attacking rooftop solar by working to end “net energy metering” (NEM), where homeowners and businesses are paid for (net) energy they generate above their own use. Their role in states like Arizona is outlined in The New Yorker Article “Power to the People” (Why the rise of green energy makes utility companies nervous) by Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org.
NEM is now the subject of intense proceedings at the California PUC which so far this past year hasn’t seen a fossil power plant or utility rate restructuring scheme they don’t like. This is the same PUC which is under investigation by the State Attorney General for improper communications between regulators and the regulated utilities.
Right now and if you purchase your solar system before the cap on hookups is reached sometime in 2016 or 2017, you get paid a whopping 4 cents a kilowatt hour for energy that would normally cost the utility several fold more to provide during peak load periods. They charge your neighbor the super retail to get your solar electrons down the street and complain that solar rooftop owners are not paying their fair share.
We have a chance to be a leader of rooftop solar and storage system community generated electricity that will be reliable and far more cost effective than importing energy through the billion dollar transmission lines stretching hundreds of miles across the desert. But ALEC and Sempra Energy and their proxies and front groups like “Fix My Energy Bill” are working hard to keep us on the fossil stuff.
Author Update: This article originally appeared as a comment published on a July 9 Starting Line article. Mr. Powell asks for the opportunity to provide additional context to our readers which his comments didn’t provide. That context appears below.
In contrast to Sempra and other California utility owners efforts, McKibben cites examples of innovative programs provided by the Vermont-based utility, Green Mountain Power headed by CEO Mary Powell (no known relation…).
He also describes the major program underway in New York where Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Richard Kaufman to serve as the state energy czar promoting a program of incentives called REV – Reforming the Energy Vision. They are already putting energy efficiency and solar in customers homes and businesses as an alternative to ConEd’s proposal to spend billions on new substations.
Kaufman notes that “pushing electrons in one direction (the usual utility centralized power grid model) … is not just energy inefficient; it’s capital-inefficient.” He sets forth the REV goal for New York: “Our aim is to create a policy environment that is not standing against the forces of history but is in line with them.”
Ironically, one of the strongest ALEC opponents in Arizona is an organization called TUSK, “Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed” started by conservative Republicans. McKibben describes how one of the founders of TUSK, political operative Jason Rose led campaigns for candidates supporting renewable energy to their equivalent of our PUC, the Arizona Corporation Commissions Board of Directors.
His campaign was backed by Solar City, one of the largest and most innovative solar energy companies in the US headed by Elon Musk of Tesla and Space X fame. Musk is building one of the largest battery plants in the world to produce batteries that will complement roof top solar installations.
Solar City and TUSK did not prevail in the election in Arizona – they were heavily outspent by Arizona utilities like APS and Salt River Project which are actively promoting huge monthly fees on roof top solar owners. But TUSK is active nationally on what they see as a self-reliance and freedom issue. They have recruited Barry Goldwater, Jr., son of former Senator Goldwater as Chairman.
Maybe Mr. Goldwater can convince Mayor Faulconer to step away from the oppressive, regressive ALEC Convention. I understand that he has been invited to participate in the San Diego Climate Action Campaign Energy Forum on July 30 where the recommendation for forming a Community Choice Energy district will be discussed.
Now, there is a way to “get in line with the forces of history…..”
More on the topic by Jay Powell: Poisoned Chalice Electric Rate “Fixing” Threatens Community Energy in San Diego