Utilities can’t take the solar heat

Utilities are trying increasingly desperate tactics in their losing battle against distributed rooftop solar power. It’s time for them to get out in front and lead instead.

Clare Foran wrote for NationalJournal Are Utilities Wilting From Heat of Solar Competition?

Regulatory battles over solar power payment models played out in several states this year. And as the dust settles, solar providers are claiming victory. Utilities, on the other hand, are trying to reframe the conversation entirely by insisting they aren’t an enemy of solar.

After discussing utlities’ attempts to bash net metering, she notes the Sierra Club hard-won victory over the ALEC solar tax:

In November, Georgia Power backed down from a proposal to tack on fees for rooftop solar customers amid pressure from consumer advocates and solar boosters. And in Idaho, the state public utilities commission rejected a similar proposal.

Cut to the chase:

What is clear is that heading into next year the question of solar power payment has not yet been resolved. State-level decisions impacting net-metering and fees for solar customers are begining to look like just the start of a much larger debate around reworking utility payment structures in the age of distributed generation.

Both sides know this conversation is coming, if it hasn’t already arrived.

The conversation was already well under way back in May at the Southern Company stockholder meeting when SO CEO Tom Fanning announced a tiger team to get on top of distributed solar and wind through a smart grid and even proposed:

the idea to think about a rooftop not as a customer-owned or “we own” kind of resource, but as a potential site. And what we’ll pay the home is a site lease. Isn’t that interesting?

Why yes, that is interesting! Still looking forward to the report from that tiger team that Fanning said was due “sometime later this summer”.

Utilities can only put off the switch to solar for a little while. Ditto methane pipeline companies: they can try to gash ditches through our lands to get to the sea to export but solar is still going to eat their lunch in the end. So let’s stop them now.

No corporate-boondoggle Trans-Pacific Partnership! No gas pipe! No new nukes!

Solar power now.