Thursday, February 25, 2016

Solar Autonomy

Louise Helton, owner of solar installation company in Las Vegas, 1 Sun Solar, explains
"Solar is a political animal. It shouldn't be but it always has been."

In December 2015, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN), appointed by Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, voted to slash net metering credits and raise fixed fees on solar customers by 40 percent, making it prohibitively expensive for most Nevadans to go solar, and also making it uneconomical for the over 17,000 people who had already switched to solar power. Many solar rooftop companies shut down, hundreds of solar workers lost their jobs and homeowners are left with higher energy bills than if they would never have gone solar. The new net metering rate plan was enacted in response to complaints from NV Energy that solar customers were shifting over $16 million in fixed costs annually to non-solar customers. The PUCN sided with NV Energy's numbers, disregarding its own independently commissioned study that showed there are no significant costs to non-solar customers from people installing solar on their houses. The same body refused to protect existing solar rooftop customers’ investments for 20 years under the old rates. The PUCN instead voted a compromise to give solar customers more time to adjust to the new rules, slowing the phase in of new rates from four to 12 years. That decision, for phased implementation, according to solar supporters, does nothing to remedy the irreversible damage already done. People are now paying NV Energy for the privilege of providing them with solar energy.

The power struggle over power in Nevada is not unique. Similar fights are playing out all over the country as regulated monopoly utilities fight for control over who gets to own power generation. It's not just in Nevada, but states like Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas that are pursuing regressive laws and fees on modern energies. This is a blatant power move to keep control in the hands of NV Energy. Solar is booming in the United States, in part because of a precipitous drop in the price of panels and a 30 percent federal solar tax credit, which was extended in December 2015. Currently, as a regulated monopoly, NV Energy is guaranteed a profit by the government. The utility is allowed a 10.5 percent return on equity.

Rooftop solar customers supply power to the grid during peak energy use times and then are credited an equal number of kilowatt-hours if they supply more than they use, hence the net in net metering. There is no 10.5 percent profit in this arrangement for NV Energy. If, however, NV Energy builds a new gas-fired power plant, they will be able to increase customer rates to pay for it and make that profit. Purchasing energy from myriad energy suppliers, which is what rooftop solar customers are, rather than building a new gas-fired power plant, would most likely be cheaper for their customers but they are not guaranteed a profit by the government. It makes sense that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway purchased NV Energy in 2013 for $5.6 billion. "Owning utilities isn't a way to get rich," Buffett said. "It's a way to stay rich."

The rich are taking from the poor. The fossil fuel industrialists are attacking anything that might bite into their god-given right to profit.

Taken from here