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Published on December 11th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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Is Your Utility Company Your Friend, Or Is It Robbing You? 3 Indicators It’s Robbing You



Originally published on Cost of Solar.

As the holiday season rolls in, I think that most of us tend to pay a little closer attention to our finances. We’d all love to have a little more money to spend on our loved ones. For a lot of households, every month, a huge chunk of our income comes in and then goes straight back out the door to our utility companies. Of course, we need electricity and heat, and we have to pay for those things, but sometimes it feels like we’re getting financially manhandled a little bit, doesn’t it?

electric monopoly

Photo Credit: Mike_fleming / CC BY

Well, perhaps we are. Utilities are monopolies. They are regulated so that they don’t use their monopolistic powers to rip us off too much. However, in some cases, those regulatory bodies are corrupt, or they’re weak, or the utility companies find some clever ways around the regulations in order to squeeze more money out of our pockets.

“Certain aspects of utility regulation and policy are especially critical for enabling and supporting utility energy efficiency programs. Experience has shown that without very direct and supportive regulations and policies, utilities will not develop and offer significant customer energy efficiency programs,” ACEEE writes.

In other words: unless very specific and supportive policies make your utility help you save energy (and money), it won’t.

Of course, the same can be said for solar energy programs.

So, how can you tell if your utility company is robbing you? With a special focus on solar energy, since that is our expertise, here are three signs:

1. You don’t have net metering.

43 out of 50 states offer net metering, a policy by which it is agreed that you will get credited (generally the retail price of electricity) for any extra electricity a solar power system on your roof sends into the grid. In another 3 states, utility companies have adopted net metering. That leaves a lonely 4 states that don’t offer this basic solar power policy. If you’re in one of the 4 states without net metering, you can bet that your utility company has a bit too much power over policies in your state and is squeezing a little too much dough out of your wallet. Unfortunately, 3 of those 4 states are in the sunny south!

2. Your state isn’t considered when compiling lists of the top solar states.

If you look at rankings of the top solar states, top solar states per capita, top solar policy states, or other such lists and you don’t see your own state on there, again, you could bet good money that the utility monopolies in your state have a strong grip on the regulatory system and are doing a “good” job keeping the rooftop revolution from you. No state is “crushing it” in the realm of solar power. The top states are doing a pretty good job, but the rest are simply oversleeping on one of the biggest energy opportunities ever.

3. Your utility company doesn’t tell you anything about how to save energy… or produce your own.

Your utility company is full of energy experts. Its monthly bills get the attention of at least one person in your household. So, it is in a perfect position to help you save energy and save money. If it isn’t doing so, you can be sure that’s because it wants to (and is allowed to) rob you blind.

When’s the last time your utility company shared very useful information with you regarding how to save energy or even how to go solar and produce your own?

Luckily, there are friendly folks like us out here looking to help you get out of the grips of your utility company and save a penny or two (or millions!) by going solar. Even in states with the least cooperative utilities and policymakers, people can save/make thousands of dollars by going solar. Thanks to solar panel prices falling tremendously over the past few years, not much is actually needed to make solar power a very profitable option for millions and millions of people.

Across the United States, the average person who goes solar saves about $20,000 over 20 years. In some of the most populous states in the country, the average savings are in the $30,000 to $40,000 ballpark. Your utility company may not be sharing this news with you, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a genuine possibility.

If you happen to be in one of the few states without net metering, or one of the states that routinely appears near the bottom of a solar power ranking, get some friends together and demand that your policymakers catch you up to the rest of the country. But even if you’re state is in that grouping, the biggest problem may simply be lack of awareness. Most people simply may not know that there are $0 down solar loans available all across the nation and that they could save a lot of money by switching to solar power.

This holiday season, consider taking your electricity into your own hands a bit, not letting your utility company put more coal in your stocking, and saving a sleigh full of money in the process. Go solar!

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • shecky vegas

    I live in Nevada, and not only does NV Energy, the statewide electricity monopoly, rob us, it also bends us over a chair, forces our legs apart, and doesn’t even give the courtesy of first slapping on some KY.

  • agelbert

    Interesting subject. I’m with GMP (Green Mountain Power of Vermont) and they do all the good actions.

    However, we had some work done nearby by them that involved a few short power outages they informed us about. The weird thing is that part of my house power was still on when most of it was off! ???

    I’ve got a smart meter nut I do not want somebody paying for some of my power or vice versa. I told them about it and they said I am only charged for what is on my meter. They said nothing about my partial power during the outage (my circuit breaker were all on and I do not have my own power or some “giant capacitor” hidden away to keep most of my kitchen power going when the other part is down).[img]http://www.desismileys.com/smileys/desismileys_6656.gif[/img]

    [img]http://www.desismileys.com/smileys/desismileys_1730.gif[/img]

  • Marion Meads

    They are not robbing you, they are fleecing you out.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      ++

  • youareme7

    If we abstract number 3 we get: you’re bothered that company doesn’t try to help you not buy their product. Most utilities I’ve know do have energy efficiency newsletters and energy star credits they share when you sign up but it’s asinine to expect a company to try to encourage you to not buy what they’re selling.

    • Kyle Field

      It’s generally a program that the govt partners with the utility to deliver. They should not be trying to make more money by encouraging inefficient use of their product. I would assume the govt bodies incentivise the companies for starting and running conservation programs like this.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Generally speaking, these companies have to include those energy efficiency programs. These are monopolies — they are thus regulated to try to correct for market failures that come with monopolies. The point is that some states and regulators let utility monopolies get away with robbing you. Of course the inclination of the monopolies is to rob you — the issue is whether or not they are allowed to.

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