Rooftop solar, net metering, and the perils of utilityspeak.
Bruce Radford is temporary Editor of Public Utilities Fortnightly. Reach him at email@example.com.
If you're concerned about rooftop solar - how net metering and the falling cost of PV panels threatens the utility business model - you should get hold of the lastest issue of Sierra, the bimonthly magazine published by the Sierra Club, and spend a half-hour reading "Throwing Shade," by reporter Edward Humes, which describes how, "fearing lost profits, the nation's investor-owned utilities are moving to blot out the solar revolution." You'll find the time was well spent.
And like Pogo, the lead character in Walt Kelly's long-ago comic strip of the same name, you will realize that you have met the enemy, and "he is us."
There's nothing like learning from your critics. I don't need to tell you how utilities come off in the Sierra piece. But I will anyway. You're the evil empire. Listen as the author interviews ratepayers, on how they want to do right for Earth and pocketbook, but find themselves stymied by doublespeak about cost shifting, free riding, and grid integrity. Well let me tell you. For the average ratepayer, the grid is the enemy: "Why do I need it? What's it done for me? Why does it go down with every third snowfall or thunderstorm?"
In particular, I liked the discussion by the author about how certain studies treat the installation of rooftop solar as a "cost" that must somehow be overcome. Here's an example that illustrates the perils of going down that path: