How Technology Innovation Will Save Customer-Owned Solar

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Nevada became just the latest state where a public utility commission crushed the economics out of customer-owned solar. Their rational for doing so mirrors the utility industry’s mantra that solar customers are avoiding their fair share of a utility’s cost to serve.

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The solution being proposed by utilities, and accepted by their commissions, is to slash what a utility pays for customer-owned solar power. The result in Nevada is the mass exit of solar companies, significant job loss and an outcry from utility customers who bought or leased a solar power system.

Technology innovation versus utility regulation

When commissions endorse the utility industry’s fairness argument, they are failing to recognize a bigger technology picture. Utilities have no technology path for cutting customer bills by 20 percent or more. Utilities are not filing integrated resource plans that eliminate air pollution.

Conversely, customer-owned solar and zero net-energy home designs do have a technology path for delivering dramatically lower electricity bills plus zero emissions. A commission is turning a blind eye toward the technology future when it crushes customer-owned solar’s economics by accepting the utility’s position on fairness. It is a decision that preserves utility revenues at the expense of an alternative, customer-owned technology path that lowers electricity bills and reduces pollution.

The question of fairness is a non-issue

Utility rate-design history is rife with examples of utility-proposed, and commission-approved, examples of unfairness. Utilities and their commissions have consistently offered lower rates to industrial customers to remove the economic attractiveness of self-generation. The “lost utility revenue” is most often recovered by charging commercial customers higher rates. Commercial customers are chosen for higher rates because they do not vote like residential customers and did not have, until the advent of customer-owned solar, a self-generation option like large industrials…

 

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