Arizona, Virginia, and now they’re trying in Georgia: ALEC wants to tax your solar panels. ALEC is trying to legislate buggy whip requirements in an age of affordable electric cars.
Suzanne Goldenberg and Ed Pilkington wrote for the Guardian 4 December 2013, ALEC calls for penalties on ‘freerider’ homeowners in assault on clean energy,
Documents obtained by the Guardian show the core elements of its strategy began to take shape at the previous board meeting in Chicago in August, with meetings of its energy, environment and agriculture subcommittees.
Further details of Alec’s strategy were provided by John Eick, the legislative analyst for Alec’s energy, environment and agriculture program.
Eick told the Guardian the group would be looking closely in the coming year at how individual homeowners with solar panels are compensated for feeding surplus electricity back into the grid.
“This is an issue we are going to be exploring,” Eick said. He said Alec wanted to lower the rate electricity companies pay homeowners for direct power generation — and maybe even charge homeowners for feeding power into the grid.
“As it stands now, those direct generation customers are essentially freeriders on the system. They are not paying for the infrastructure they are using. In effect, all the other non direct generation customers are being penalised,” he said.
Eick dismissed the suggestion that individuals who buy and install home-based solar panels had made such investments. “How are they going to get that electricity from their solar panel to somebody else’s house?” he said. “They should be paying to distribute the surplus electricity.”
Except it actually saves utilities money, as Austin Energy discovered when they decided to pay 3 cents extra for solar.
It’s not excess solar capacity that’s the problem for electric utilities: it’s peak capacity, in the afternoon, when utility rates are highest, as their think tank Edison Electric Institute reported earlier this year.
In November, Arizona became the first state to charge customers for installing solar panels. The fee, which works out to about $5 a month for the average homeowner, was far lower than that sought by the main electricity company, which was seeking to add up to $100 a month to customers’ bills. Gabe Elsner, director of the Energy and Policy Institute, said the attack on small-scale solar was part of the larger Alec project to block clean energy. “They are trying to eliminate pro-solar policies in the states to protect utility industry profits,” he said.
Yep, utility fat cats are attacking rooftop solar because the hundred-year-old utility baseload-capacity free ride is ending, and electric utilities don’t like that.
So what is ALEC doing?
The group sponsored at least 77 energy bills in 34 states last year. The measures were aimed at opposing renewable energy standards, pushing through the Keystone XL pipeline project, and barring oversight on fracking, according to an analysis by the Centre for Media and Democracy.