Solar for Everyone, including Utilities
James Tong is vice president for Strategy and Government Affairs at Clean Power Finance, headquartered in San Francisco, which helps provide financing to facilitate residential solar power installations. Jon Wellinghoff practices law in San Francisco with Stoel Rives, LLP, serving as co-chair of the firm’s energy team. Previously, Mr. Wellinghoff served as chairman of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The Wrong Debate: Regulatory discussions on solar distributed generation (DG) continue to dwell on net energy metering (NEM). In this way, they focus on a narrow issue: what is the appropriate price for energy that solar customers export to the grid?
And discussions that do get past NEM inevitably get directed to a further question of similar import: what will the "utility of the future" look like as solar DG and other disruptive innovations gain prominence?
But are these the right questions at all? We believe it is more productive to start at square one and determine what the new grid architecture ought to be. If we agree that increasing consumer choice and the efficient delivery of energy services to all consumers are baseline goals, we should pose a rather different set of questions: namely, can we design the grid to (1) promote more energy efficiency, (2) reduce the emissions of pollution, including greenhouse gases, and (3) deploy more distributed energy resources (DER), such as solar DG and demand response?