Decisions made today around how distributed energy resources are integrated into the grid will have long-term impacts on the decisions that customers make and the shape of our electricity system in the future. The current actions of big utilities don't bode well for smooth transitions toward the inevitable renewable energy future.
In October 2015, Hawaii Public Utilities Commission ended its net metering program for all new solar customers in the state. Now, new customers will have a choice to make between two new tariffs: a "grid-supply" option and a "self-supply" option. The Rocky Mountain Institute reported that:
The utility serving most of Hawaii, Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO), has repeatedly raised alarms due to a host of technical issues (some real, many perceived) related to high PV adoption. This led to onerous new interconnection policies in 2013 that dramatically reduced the rate of new installations, generated widespread customer outcry, and prompted some customers to defect from the grid entirely instead of waiting for their systems to be interconnected.Now, Nevada, previously a leader in solar has essentially 'pulled the plug' on solar in its State.
On December 22, regulators approved a new solar tariff structure that dealt a powerful blow to the state’s residential rooftop market: a) a substantial increase to the fixed charges solar customers, coupled with b) a substantial decrease to the compensation they’d receive for net exported generation. The net effect is it sinks the economics for grid-connected rooftop solar in the state.
The new rates which took effect January 1st. will retroactively apply to all solar customers, rather than grandfather in those under the old tariff.
The Nevada Public Utilities Commission rejected appeals by solar customers and industry advocates to enter a stay on the implementation of the new rate plan pending a reassessment of its impacts. When Nevada announced its new tariffs, SolarCity, Sunrun, and Vivint, immediately ceased operations in the state and laid off hundreds of workers, promising legal action. In all, roughly 6,000 solar jobs in the state are now at risk.
You can read the entire article here.
This follows Arizona which also changed its utility's rules for new PV customers.
With the solar amendment benefiting the big utilities moving forward in Florida, and discussions about charging fees to those who generate solar power, can Florida be far behind?
This is a short-sighted approach of utilities to discourage and impede solar growth rather than working to assess a fair fee for usage of the existing utility lines. These approaches continue to monopolize energy production and distribution. These early accomplishments first penalize those who can least afford the initial capital outlays for solar and who benefit from leasing programs, such as those operated by Solar City, and who cannot afford to purchase large banks of batteries to go completely off-grid.
In the longer term, battery storage will reach improved capacity and lower costs. More customers will exercise their option to go 'off-grid' completely--a practice which, if enforced by a local government is a violation of the International Property Maintenance Code used in communities throughout the United States and Canada. The code states that properties are unsafe to live in if they do not have electricity and running water. This code was used in a court case in the City of Cape Coral, Florida, in 2014, to rule a property owner must be connected to the water and electric grid. As more customers leave the grid, the cost of electricity increases for everyone else.