U.S. Utilities Fight ‘Tooth and Nail’ Against Rooftop Solar
Three years after receiving a call to arms from their trade association during a private meeting in Colorado, U.S. power utilities “are waging a determined campaign to stop a home-solar insurgency that is rattling the boardrooms of the country’s government-regulated electric monopolies,” the Washington Post reported over the weekend.
Soaring demand for residential solar could lead to declining sales, loss of customers, and “potential obsolescence” for traditional utilities, and “industry must prepare an action plan to address the challenges,” the group heard in a prepared presentation.
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After failing in their efforts to push higher utility rates for solar customers, the utility’s allies on state public utility commissions “mounted a more successful push for fee hikes that could put solar panels out of reach for many potential customers,” Warrick writes.
Utilities argue that rooftop solar transfers a larger share of their fixed costs to customers who haven’t installed panels. “It’s not about profits; it’s about protecting customers,” said David K. Owens, executive vice president of the Edison Electric Institute. “There is a grid that everyone relies on, and you have to pay for that grid and pay for that infrastructure.”
But studies in Nevada and Mississippi found the costs to utilities are generally outweighed by the benefits. “Independent studies show that distributed solar benefits all ratepayers by preventing the need to build new, expensive power plants or transmission lines,” said Matthew Kasper of the Energy & Policy Institute.
“Utilities make their money by building big, new infrastructure projects and then sending ratepayers the bill, which is exactly why utilities want to eliminate solar.”