New baseload generation is needed in many areas of the United States, but financing new plants will be particularly challenging in restructured states where generation facilities are no longer...
Author Spratley argues that Fortnightly's title misrepresents his December article.
In Fortnightly's Dec. 1 issue, I was surprised to see you place a new title on my article about how states are leveraging system benefit charges to finance new photovoltaic (PV) projects (originally "Consumer Charges Power Solar Financing"). Your provocative title: "Solar Mandate? Like it or not, Consumers Pay" implies that consumers are bearing an enormous burden for solar power imposed by state policymakers.
Rather, my article showcases the states' innovation to couple customer funds with other financing, incentives and economic solar applications, seeking to offer PV technology as a realistic choice for consumers that eventually competes in the evolving retail markets as the price for PV continues to decline while demand increases.
Do consumers like solar? The overwhelming evidence in public opinion surveys shows clearly that solar is preferred over nearly every other energy source. Examples are the recent "deliberative polls" by Texas utilities or the longstanding trend in national opinion studies well documented by the National Renewable Energy Lab's Dr. Barbara Farhar.
Consumer preference for solar and other renewables has led states initially to develop a "mandate" for financing by customers. This initial financing will shape a future "market" driven by real solar choices. The renewable portfolio standard in several restructured states compliments these efforts.
Customer charges will fund an estimated $60 million for new solar projects over the next several years as identified in my article. Probably a greater dollar amount will also assist to finance these new PV systems from other government and private sources to meet the goal of the Clinton Administration's Million Solar Roofs Initiative for America by 2010. These are small investments seeking to build a big potential market so consumers who like and are willing to pay for solar, can really get solar-generated electricity.
The loudest consumer objection in recent state ballot referendums or in state restructuring debates is not to paying for solar, but the "mandate" to pay utilities for billions of dollars in uneconomic nuclear plants and other stranded costs. Paying a small amount to develop viable solar power for the average consumer is a choice most consumers (and a growing number of utilities) favor as reflected in most state electric industry restructuring measures detailed in my article.
William A. Spratley & Associates Inc.
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