Utility Companies Fight the Spread of Rooftop Solar Panels

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
(photo: EOS Energy)

Many Americans, especially those living in sun-drenched regions of the nation, have taken to installing solar panels on their rooftops. These low-energy residential generators can help consumers save money on their utility bills by selling back the electricity they generate. Although home-solar systems have grown in popularity, they still only account for less than a quarter of 1% of the nation’s power generation.


And yet, utility companies are panicking over them, and trying to convince lawmakers to eliminate or at least weaken home-solar credit programs in some states.


To date, 43 states and the District of Columbia offer a credit system called net metering, which pays residential and commercial customers for excess renewable energy they sell back to utilities.


The programs have been particularly popular in sunny Arizona and California, and not surprisingly perhaps, it is in these two state capitols that utility lobbyists are working hard to convince policymakers that net metering is a bad idea that could cripple the power industry.


In Arizona, the nation’s second-largest solar market, the state’s largest utility wants the Arizona Corporation Commission, which establishes utility rates, to reconsider a generous residential credit and impose new fees on customers. This move came after the commission already eliminated a commercial solar incentive.


Out in California, home to the biggest solar market in the U.S., three major utilities want state officials to save them from a subsidy program that they claim could soon drain them of $1.4 billion annually.


Advocates of renewable energy scoff at such statements, saying utility companies are exaggerating their losses. They also wonder why company profits should take precedent over the finances of individual American citizens.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities (by Diane Cardwell, New York Times)

Big Energy Firm Agrees to Replace Coal-Burning Plants with Wind and Solar Operations (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)


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