The fight over customer rooftops, grid funding, and net metering.
Dr. Charles Cicchetti (Ph.D) is a member of Pacific Economics Group and Professor of Economics at the University of Southern California. Previously, he has served with Arthur Andersen Economic Consulting (managing director), Putnam, Hayes & Bartlett (co-chairman), National Economic Research Associates (NERA, as sr. v.p.), and the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (as chairman).
Jon Wellinghoff (J.D.) practices law in San Francisco with Stoel Rives, LLP. He has served previously as chairman of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
After a decade of something between neutrality and support, electric distribution companies are attempting to put the brakes on solar rooftop customer generation. Two battle lines are forming in a growing number of states. These twin fronts concern 1) the funding and maintenance of the grid, and 2) the pricing or valuation of the electricity that customers produce with the solar panels installed on their rooftops.
First, utilities aver that solar rooftop customers are not paying enough for their 24x7 use of the utility's grid. Utilities are relying on these claims to propose new tariffs for solar rooftop customers, to help fund, maintain, and operate the grid.
Second, many of these same utilities claim also that they are required to pay too much for any excess generation that customer generators place into the grid. Some electric utilities are attempting to define every kWh of solar rooftop electricity generation as a sale to the utility grid. If they succeed, this interpretation will derail the residential solar rooftop industry.
Solar rooftop penetration in the United States has exceeded virtually every expectation. Rooftop solar customers use most of the electricity they generate. They require less utility services and they retain ownership of the electricity they "bank" with the utility.