Declaring war on non-utility PV.
Recently I’ve been hearing some utility executives use a new catchphrase: “reverse Robin Hood.” The phrase is shorthand for policies on net metering and green incentives that support rooftop photovoltaics (PV) at the expense of low-income customers. We’re “robbing the poor” to pay for rich people’s fancy solar systems.
A California legislator has taken this phrase a step further. During floor debate on energy legislation, Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) referred to rooftop solar policies as “robbin’ the ’hood” – metaphorically holding up utility customers in low-income neighborhoods to finance PV panels on mansion roofs.
Such metaphors describe a populist backlash against rooftop PV, driven by concerns about income disparities, rising utility costs, and aggressive green policies. At the same time, however, these metaphors also might indicate something else entirely. They might indicate that by ramping up efforts to sway public opinion, the utility industry has declared a not-so-subtle war on rooftop solar and other distributed energy resources (DER). Or to be more precise, we’ve declared war on DER that we don’t own.
That distinction is important, because it says something about the industry’s motives – and long-term expectations for how we’ll get paid for service over the rest of the 21st century.