Sometimes you have to start really simple with people. Broader society decided to allow a small group of people to make guaranteed money – electric utilities – via approved monopolies. However, the electric utilities decided to violate the agreement.
The Edison Electric Institute and associated electric utilities knew about CO2 and the reality of its effect on the global climate in 1968, at the latest. Now that the utilities know they have to deal with solar, they do their damnedest to “use a little bit of political jiu-jitsu” to limit residential solar and commercial solar power. And if you doubt – don’t forget that just a few weeks ago Entergy got caught paying actors to boo solar power at public commission meetings.
Now – in a continuation of the political jiu-jitsu, a utility front group has put out a document alleging that residential solar power gets 75% of the installation costs back in the form of incentives – and the logic being used is to compare it to utility scale solar power.
Enough of the rhetoric though…
The crux of the argument comes down to the royal blue column in the Residential Direct Owned section of the above image. $1.88 per watt in net metering representing 58% of the overall cost of a solar power system.
The question is – what is net metering’s cost to broader society versus the benefits delivered?
The fossil and utility crowd like to complain about net metering because they say residential solar customers are taking value from everyone else by using the power grid as a battery of sorts, and the battery analogy has truth to it.
However, the Brookings Institute has shown research across the United States showing that, so far, solar power and net metering is not taking more value than it creates, but in fact, it is a net benefit and solar installers are underpaid for their value. Harder evidence was put forth by a recent California decision to cancel and slowdown grid upgrades worth $2.6 billion due to distributed solar power and energy efficiency. And this is before we consider that power plants across the United States are running less because of distributed solar, and putting out less pollution – which means fewer premature born babies downwind from those closed coal plants.
It comes down to this – if the electric utilities and the Edison Electric Institute had been responsible to the species, the country and those who granted them a monopoly right and started down this path toward cleaning our power grid decades ago – instead of manipulating the public and seemingly committing crimes in New Orleans and further – then we’d not be having a net metering argument again. Unfortunately, the utility pockets are deep and the rules of propaganda dictate a gish gallop.
Net metering is not an incentive – its a carrot. A carrot to motivate a utility to do its job with the money We The People are granting them. Otherwise – we’re going to cook the rabbit in our solar powered+storage homes that deliver electricity at rates far below what a gold plated utility CEO’s office upgrades can handle.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.