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Consumer Technology solar alternatives

Published on July 11th, 2014 | by Beth Bond

36

Louisiana Solar Study — Is The Study Skewed?

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July 11th, 2014 by
 
Solar continues to be under attack in the most unusual ways, and Louisiana solar is no exception. Jeff Cantin with Solar Alternatives joins us to discuss the latest move by the Louisiana Public Service Commission in regards to commissioning a study on the costs and benefits of solar energy net metering.

Online Energy Radio at Blog Talk Radio with Talk Solar on BlogTalkRadio

 

louisiana solar alternativesSolar Alternatives was founded in 2008 to provide affordable, productive, and durable clean energy solutions for the gulf south. It prides itself on responsible and customer-centered design, attention to detail in every installation, and excellent post-sales service. Its staff’s design and installation experience includes Grid-Tied and Off-Grid Photovoltaics, Glycol Closed-Loop Solar Thermal, Passive Batch Solar Thermal, Thermoplastic Solar Pool Systems, Commercial Scale Solar Process Heat, and Auxiliary Residential Solar Equipment.

Jeff is also an active member of Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association (GSREIA), which represents Solar and Renewable Energy firms throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in matters of policy, regulation, and public relations.

Image Credit: Solar Alternatives, via Facebook

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About the Author

Beth Bond, the Curator of Green and Sustainable Business News at Southeast Green, is the driving force of Southeast Green. As a Southerner, Bond was tired of hearing about everything "green" happening outside her native region which is what drove her to create the website. Owning her own marketing company for over 15 years and working with sustainability groups, Beth knew the story of sustainability and green resided here in the Southeast. There was just no one place to tell the cohesive story of all the things that are happening in the Southeast. Since relaunching Southeast Green in September 2008, Bond has been establishing even broader liaisons and partners to help continue the story of green and sustainability. Bond serves on a variety of boards and committees in the Atlanta sustainable community. In 2011 she joined the board at Georgia Interfaith Power and Light. She is the Collaboration Chair for the Green Chamber of the South. In December of 2011 the Georgia Solar Energy Association awarded Beth with a Solar Advocate of the Year award. In 2014 Bond was a finalist for the Trident E3 Award presented by the Atlanta Metro Chamber of Commerce. She has also served on host committees for This is Market, River Revival, Earth Hour, Green Law's Environmental Heroes and Get the Lead Out to name a few. Bond spent her formative years in Mobile, Alabama. She graduated from Florida State University and then served in Bouza, Niger as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She is active in her neighborhood and serves on Community Council for District 3, DeKalb County. When not working to better her community she participates in her church where she serves as Co-Chair for the Creation Care committee. She is an avid tennis and college football fan.



  • Matt

    I seeing a lot of talking but little listening here. I think the basic point is that net-metering works best when the region uses time of day pricing (TOD). That way as we move to the duck curve. If you produce extra at the valley it is worth less than when you draw from the peak. Then all the smoke and mirrors goes away, and the justification for storage becomes much clearer.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Net metering works only if the utility can sell the received solar power for enough to covert their expenses and make a fair profit after returning power to payback the supplier/roof-owner.

      Net metering works great when few people have excess solar to sell back to the grid. Utilities pay a more for peak supply. They can take in the solar, avoid buying expensive supply, and pay back with cheaper-to-them off-peak power thus making a nice profit.

      But take it to an extreme. Suppose everyone had roof-top solar. There would be no demand during sunny hours and the value of surplus power would be zero. But everyone would received their other 19 hours of electricity at the utilities expense.

      Look what has happened in Germany with only a modest amount of solar on their grid. The sunny day wholesale price of power has dropped very low. As low or lower than late night power. But pre- and post-solar hours power peaks remain.

      Utilities can’t accept cheap power in the middle of the day and pay it back with expensive power in mornings and evenings and stay in business.

  • Adam Devereaux

    Is there a higher-quality audio stream available? I’m subscribed to talk solar to iTunes and sound quality level is frustrating to listen to.

    • Offgridmanpolktn

      I will agree as to the quality of the stream although have only tried listening through the browser on my phone, it reminds me of listening to an AM station on my transistor radio forty or fifty years ago.
      However we are only listening to people speak and it is perfectly understandable with no distortion or static as we used to get from that source.
      Considering that we are getting a free news source with information that cannot be easily found at other places there is no reason for complaining.

      • Adam Devereaux

        I’m happy for the source and enjoy the program. But it’s all post production compression that’s affecting the audio quality. Often you’ll see a very low bandwidth stream available and wanted to make sure there wasn’t a higher-quality stream I was missing.

        • Offgridmanpolktn

          I agree with your desire for better quality if possible, was just thinking that smaller projects like these may not have the funding for dual streams.
          Have you tried listening directly off this page and possibly avoiding some of the compression affects from iTunes? It is a little tinny sounding but otherwise very clear.

  • Mint

    I think renewable advocates need to stop pushing net metering, because it’s a bad fight to pick.

    The power that utilities sell to you and your neighbors costs them 4-6c/kWh (and in fact only 3c/kWh using marginal cost analysis), i.e. far less than retail. There is no way for them to credit you for your generated power at full retail rates without raising the price of electricity on others.

    Getting wholesale prices for generated power makes sense, so just leave it at that. I know it’s good to have early subsidies to get renewable costs down, but the 30% federal tax credit is already doing that.

    • Kyle Field

      It’s a near term solution to ensure that residential solar system owners can be assured of stable returns. It’s definitely not sustainable in the long run and won’t be necessary as the soft costs associated with system installs drop, reducing the payback on a system to just a few years vs the 10-25yr payouts we see now. We’re either just past or just coming up on the inflection point where these supports will no longer be needed…but also need to ensure that we have generated sufficient momentum in the market to ensure that the rate of installs continues to increase.

      Also, the timing upon which phasing out “retail net metering paybacks” needs to happen varies for each utility/state/locality depending on pricing, incentives, etc.

    • Shiggity

      The time of production can be significant though. Yes most of the time the costs are low, but at certain times they can go to 3x, 4x, 5x, sometimes higher.

      Same Mint from dailytech? ;)

      • Mint

        Actually, yes ;)

        You gotta realize what makes costs high at these certain times. Let me make an example:

        Consider 10MW of natural gas generation that costs $10M, is not efficient enough to compete with other companies offering 5c/kWh for baseload 24/7, but is still needed 1000 hours per year when demand is highest. If it was financed at 5%, then it needs ~$1M/yr to pay off the loan in 15 years and maybe another $200k/yr for O&M. $1.2M/(10MW*1000h) = 12c/kWh plus maybe 5c/kWh in fuel. So it needs to sell at 17c/kWh for these 1000 high demand hours to stay in business. Total cost of peaker energy is $1.7M/yr.

        Now what happens when, say, solar reduces the need for this plant from 1000 hours to 200 hours? Well, it still needs to pay off the loan and O&M, so now we’re looking at $1.2M/(10MW*200h) = 60c/kWh + fuel costs, i.e. 65c/kWh. Total cost of peaker energy is $1.3M/yr.

        Get my point? Even though the solar displaced 80% of the electricity costing 17c/kWh, it only actually avoided costs of 5c/kWh (the fuel). The reason is that it can’t completely fulfill peak demand (the sun goes down before peak hours end, and on top of that, cloud systems covering huge areas arrive a few times a year), so we still have to pay for that natural gas to stick around. Storage can cut down the need for some peakers down to zero hours, allowing them to shut down, but not all.

        This is why marginal cost analysis is important. A study was done by NREL on this and other issues:
        http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/55588.pdf

        Check page xxv to see cost savings of solar/wind. Ignoring their construction cost, each MWh of renewable energy saved generators about $30 (3c/kWh).

        That’s the real value of residential solar power put into the grid.

        • just_jim

          Ignoring their construction cost But one shouldn’t ignore the construction cost of generation plants that needn’t be built because of wind/solar. That’s the fallacy of the argument.

          • Mint

            No, it means ignoring construction cost and PPAs of solar/wind.

            Solar doesn’t really let you avoid construction of (or shut down existing) FF generation plants. There’s high demand in the late evening when the sun has set, and a few times a year there’s high demand when clouds cover most solar arrays.

            Can storage take the place of those plants? Not at a significantly lower construction cost, and not at high reliability according to studies based on real data. They show that even with solar and storage, you still need most of the FF plants to be constructed and available, even if some are only used a few days a year.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Solar doesn’t really let you avoid construction of (or shut down existing) FF generation plants”

            So you are telling us that we can’t build some new pump-up hydro, install a bunch of solar panels, and avoid building a coal plant or shut a coal plant down?

            If you’re saying that it would be cheaper to build some NG plants for “deep backup” rather than to build storage, the you are probably correct. We can live is a few days/hours a year of gas burning.

            It may turn out that installing extra storage tanks for flow batteries might be cheaper than gas plants with a very, very low CF.

          • Mint

            If you’re saying that it would be cheaper to build some NG plants for “deep backup”

            Yup, hence my “few days per year” comment.

            When we’re talking about rooftop solar, compensation needs to be proportional to avoided cost, which was briefly mentioned in the radio episode above. Otherwise, rates have to go up.

            If we can’t live without deep backup, then the grid is only saving is fuel, not construction cost. For storage, whether pumped hydro or batteries, $/kW (as opposed to $/kWh) is pretty similar to that of gas, so there isn’t much avoided cost there.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We already pay for deep backup. We already have the cost of fossil fuels plants that run only a few hours per year built into our cost structure.
            As for saving construction cost, it’s not just capex but also finex. Wind and solar install very quickly and don’t pile up the accrued interest of a large thermal plant.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I haven’t been paying much attention to this thread, so perhaps this has been covered…

            “If we can’t live without deep backup, then the grid is only saving is fuel, not construction cost.”

            OK, let’s say there are X hours a year which are not feasibly covered by a reasonable amount of wind, solar and storage. Some hours/days that storage doesn’t pencil out. Then we’d need to have some sort of dispatchable generation.

            Combined cycle natural gas plants have a median overnight cost of $0.66/watt. Wind runs $1.98. Solar, I’m going to call it $2/watt based on the GMT EOY summary. Other numbers come from -

            http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/

            Seems like if we had to back up each watt of wind and each watt of solar we’d be moving their overnight from ~$2/watt to about $2.70/watt. (It’s not likely 1:1 for both.)

            Just throwing those numbers into an LCOE calculator, $2/watt vs $2.70 watt for wind increases the price about 1 penny per kWh. Solar, with its lower CF jumps about 3 cents per kWh.

            In practice things would be a lot more complicated. It might make more sense to increase reservoir size for PuHS or install more storage tanks for flow batteries. It might make more sense to pay load to go away.

            Then, ” not construction cost”.

            Replacement cost would certainly be reduced. We’d go into an almost 100% renewable grid with a number of serviceable CCNGs. By using them for only a few hours a year they should last decades.

            Actually, it seems to me that we’re building (and paying off) that deep backup right now. The gas plants we’re bringing on line to replace coal will be paid off before we get to very high wind/solar penetration. Perhaps 15-20 years from now. The more wind/solar we add, the less those plants run. The less they run, the longer they will be usable for deep backup.

            Or did I totally miss the point of the discussion? ;o)

          • just_jim

            If we get to the point that we need the extra capacity for 200 hrs a year per your point, it will be cheaper to keep some plants that would otherwise be retired, than to build new capacity. Since the plants are already paid off, the capital cost are zero. What are left are fuel costs, and the m&o costs to keep it ready to produce power.

          • Mint

            What are left are fuel costs, and the m&o costs to keep it ready to produce power.

            Precisely. Those fuel costs are what rooftop solar saves (O&M is mostly related to capacity rather than total energy production, but is a much smaller cost than fuel regardless).

            If somebody passed on building rooftop solar that produced 10 MWh/yr, the utility would need to buy that energy from one of these plants, and in turn those plants would need to burn more fuel. That difference is the value of solar (at least under our current system of not taxing carbon).

          • just_jim

            You got it exactly backwards.

            In your example of the gas generator going from being used 1000 hrs a year to 200 hours a year, your own figures show it requiring 85 cents a KW/Hr to justify building a new plant. So instead, an obsolete plant with lower efficiency (higher fuel costs) and higher per kw m&o costs is kept in operation.

            That saves (in you example) 1 million a year in capitol costs. Offsetting that is higher fuel costs, maybe as much as 7c/kw in fuel costs, and being generous (to your viewpoint) 300K/ year in m&o. Total cost per year goes down from $1.7 million to $0.44 million.

          • Mint

            How does rooftop solar make a difference? If this obsolete plant can prevent new construction with solar, then it can also prevent new construction without solar as well.

            You’re not comparing apples to apples. You’re stacking the deck by arbitrarily choosing which scenario needs new gas construction.

          • just_jim

            I’m stacking the deck by using your scenario?

            You are the one whose scenario was a plant went from 1000 hours use to 200. I simply pointed out that in that case, the economics of a new plant get drastically worse, and keeping an old inefficient but paid off plant could be better than building a new one.

            Don’t blame me if your claim that renewables don’t reduce the need for new plants doesn’t pass the smell test.

          • Mint

            You are NOT using my scenario.

            First of all, you assume old plants last forever for free. That’s pure fantasy. Secondly, you changed the numbers to 7c/kWh for fuel, which is far from reality. NREL found for each MWh of renewable energy produced, about $30 of fuel was saved. That’s 3c/kWh. I gave you the link.

            Most importantly, you dodged the question: If we can just use old plants in the way you describe, why is it that we can only do so if we build rooftop solar?

            Don’t blame me if your claim that renewables don’t reduce the need for new plants doesn’t pass the smell test.

            From the NREL document I linked:
            http://i.imgur.com/Gnx6hFb.jpg

            200 hours a year, a 33% renewable, solar-heavy grid could produce as little as 3% of our power from renewables. When that happens, you need GWs of fossil fuel (or storage) capacity online to save you.

          • just_jim

            Shall we start with your strawmen first?

            I never claimed that my response to your scenerio only worked with rooftop solar, it works for any electricity source that would reduce the need for your postulated generator from 1000 hours a year to 200 hours a year.

            Second strawman, I certainly didn’t claim we could use old plants for free. The 7c per/kwH fuel costs was for the old plants, assuming that they would be less efficient than new plants, the 300K maintenance costs were 50% higher than your plant. And ‘forever’ we’d only have to worry about ‘forever’ when we ran out of fossil fuel plants. For the next 50 years at least, currently operating plants will get to the point where they are economically obsolete for baseload. When we get to the point where we haven’t built a fossil fuel plant for 50 years we’ll have to make some plans, but right now we have more immediate problems to worry about.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I have this fantasy that runs though my head from time to time in which we get to the point of needing fossil fuel generation “7 hours a year” as in the Budischak paper.

            We support a number of paid off NG plants which can be run by a corps of retired folks who, in National Guard style, show up at their plant once a month to do a practice start-up and take care of any maintenance.

            A minimum number crew would be on call at all times and required to stay within “2 hours” drive of the plant so if the Great Dragon started eating the Sun they could get things fired up before we ran out of storage and keep the grid running while we shot off firecrackers and banged on pots to get solar running again.

          • eveee

            Not so.
            “PV-or solar electricity-has great value as a source of firm, reliable power during extreme peak loads…

            Substantial evidence from well-attested studies using actual solar and system load data verify the following:

            an excellent correlation exists between the available solar resource and the periods when California relies most on an adequate power supply.”

            “PV can
            *provide dependable summer peak capacity in California

            *Reduce the run-time of existing high-polluting peaker plants

            *Reduce the number of new gas generation plants needed

            The list goes on including supplying valuable reserves.
            Essentially, what you have done is ignore the fact that planned new gas generation and T and D are based on the last years peak load, which is summertime late afternoon. Not spring/fall, 7PM, etc.

            http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy01osti/31179.pdf

          • Mint

            That’s a 13 year old document that uses a single day’s data to make its case.

            But even that example shows how limited residential solar’s peak reduction is. Rooftop PV can bring peak grid demand down from 43GW to 40GW after a few percent penetration, and after that more PV does nothing to the new peak at 7pm.

          • eveee

            You started out saying
            “Solar doesn’t really let you avoid construction of (or shut down existing) FF generation plants”
            Thats wrong. Solar does let you avoid construction or shut down existing FF generation plants. One look at Germany would tell you that. Now you are saying all the data in this study comes from one day. Not quite. There is only one peak day of the year and that determines the capacity requirement for the full year, yes. But the study hardly comes from one day. It considers other factors that add value to solar. Yes, PV will create a new lower peak. But all day long when it is generating into peak daytime demand it has value. So it has many avenues of added value, not one. You should read all of it before you jump to conclusions. It also says that commercial centers have much higher ELCC than residential. Many of those end at 6PM and shut off their air conditioning for the day. Residential Solar PV is not the only way to meet demand. Demand management and many other factors are involved. No future power will be residential PV only. A peek at todays caiso.com, shows that California has the peculiar benefit of having high wind resources right when solar decreases. For now solar + wind are anywhere from 4 to 8 GW out of a load that varies from about 25 to 35 GW, with a hot day peek at 5 PM. These two lower the whole curve even at night. Its not the same everywhere, but there are big gains to be made with solar, demand reduction, fuel savings, reserves, peak generation. All of them. Not just one. I would say reducing peak demand by about 10% from solar and wind is quite significant. Given that there are many sources including CSP with and without storage, wind, geothermal, hydro, and gas spinning reserves, there is a lot of room to lower peak demand and add value. I doubt residential PV will amount to more than 30% of generation soon, at least not in California yet. One has to look at Germany for that.

    • eveee

      Really? So why are wholesale market rates variable? The real situation is nothing like that. Its a market with bidding, not a fixed price. The utility uses a blend of sources and tries to keep the usage of high cost source down. Last years peak load determines next years rate. Its a computation of all the costs over time. So whats the wholesale rate for peak power plants in the middle of the summer in the afternoon? Its not fixed.
      ” So although power from a single PV plant on a cloudy April day might not be highly predictable, nor will it be most needed then. In contrast, the 2000 California heat wave is one of many examples when available reserve capacity was limited, California energy prices topped out at over $600/MWh, and the State’s solar resource was completely dependable.”
      http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy01osti/31179.pdf

      • Mint

        Really? So why are wholesale market rates variable? The real situation is nothing like that. Its a market with bidding, not a fixed price.

        What in my post suggests otherwise? There’s a reason I gave a range of prices. Most of the time, the wholesale price is in this range:
        http://www.eia.gov/electricity/wholesale/xls/ice_electric-historical.zip

        There’s no need to cherry a pick a single day from 14 years ago. When solar households get paid for the electricity they put into the grid, it happens year round. Net metering credits you 10-30c/kWh, but utilities usually buy wholesale electricity for much less, as shown above.

        • eveee

          There is no cherry picking. And its not mine either, its NREL. One day, the highest demand of the year, determines next years generation capacity. Thats how it works. Net metering credits 10 to 30c/kwhr? I would like to see that data. Can you provide that? The rules vary dramatically from state to state. I don’t think its possible to throw a big blanket over it and say it works just one way. Even normal electricity generation and billing is very different depending on location. For example, California has tiered rate. For the first few hundred kwhr monthly, the rate is 13,5. Then it goes up the next 100 kwhr. By the time you have gone up only a little over the low level it pops to 30 and even 35c. Thats without TOU, residential. That is one reason solar PV is taking off. It knocks you back into tier 1. So its net demand reduction that matters in California. They even have rules that encourage residential annual net to be even, not excess. So nobody expects a payment from the utility. That is not what adds the value. The tiers are like the old cell phone plans. Cheap with low usage. Expensive the instant you go over. Other states? Way different. Net metering controversy is overblown. Notice also that utilities are buying at base and selling into peak TOU rates. In California those are 29c/kwhr and up. The rooftop PV gets only 13.5c if it has a net flow to the utility annually.

          • Mint

            NREL didn’t cherry-pick, as they looked back at the most recent data (as of 2001). You, OTOH, are looking at a 13-year-old report. Long gone are the days when the net peak is at 3:30PM.

            And you’re not getting it: “Net demand reduction” is not the same as actual demand reduction. If you put a kWh of electricity into the grid and it reduced your bill by 30-35c/kWh, then the utility is effectively paying you 30-35c/kWh for power it would have otherwise bought for an average of <6c/kWh. This is true even if you did not have net excess for the month.

            Tiers w/o TOU were introduced as a simple means to encourage conservation and shift costs to bigger households, allowing generally lower rates for the poor and corporations.

            Net metering basically circumvents these goals. You can say it's wrong in the first place to rip off middle and upper class homes with 30c/kWh rates, and I couldn't really argue. But if PG&E/SCE can't keep ripping these people off to subsidize others, then base rates will have to rise.

            This is my point from the very beginning. Fighting for net metering isn't a good idea for the long term health of the solar industry.

          • eveee

            It’s an example. It was given because there are so many like it. It’s now 2014 and california has much more solar, but what do we find? I gave the figures for a hot day this year. Similar. So much for cherry picking. The load looks similar. Not as hot this year and the peak was 4 pm. On a cooler day 5pm. One difference? Utilities have tracking PV. The solar numbers are from the utility and it’s hard to get the residential numbers.
            Where do you get this reduced your bill 30c/ kwhr stuff from? I asked for a reference and you failed to provide. Are you making stuff up? Not in California. Like I said. Every state is different. You also keep saying this is true even if you do not have an excess for the month. Also false in california. Its the monthly difference over a year that matters. And sizing solar so you have payback is discouraged by the PUC. So there is little or no net pay from the utility. Instead you just drop your big bill down to a little one. If you don’t have a big bill, it’s not worth it for solar. Tier 1 are not getting solar. It’s tier 3 and 4.
            If PGE can’t keep ripping off…?? You are a real hoot. PGE is getting busted at their bs game. Investors are eating it. Unless you are long in utilities… Everyone else benefits. You just did a phony hack job on solar that was full of holes. Now you want us to side with utilities ripping us off? Get real.

          • Mint

            Last year the peak (hot day) was at 5pm, and more to my point, if you subtract already built solar, then the remaining peak is in the evening. Tonight I’ll do a screencap of today’s load.

            Where do you get this reduced your bill 30c/ kwhr stuff from? I asked for a reference and you failed to provide. Are you making stuff up? Not in California.

            What is so confusing to you? You obviously know that high tiers are being charged 30-35c/kWh.

            Do you know what net metering is?
            http://www.pge.com/en/myhome/saveenergymoney/solar/nembill.page
            If you’re in the highest tier, and your house uses 10kWh at 7-10pm when everyone comes home from work, you’ll get charged $3.50 for that. If, however, you also had a solar array that produced 10kWh during the day, your bill goes down by $3.50. That means the utility effectively paid you 35c/kWh for your energy.

            If PGE can’t keep ripping off…?? You are a real hoot. PGE is getting busted at their bs game. Investors are eating it. Unless you are long in utilities… Everyone else benefits. You just did a phony hack job on solar that was full of holes. Now you want us to side with utilities ripping us off? Get real.

            PG&E’s profits are regulated by CPUC. They’re not ripping eveyone off. They’re ripping off tier 3 and 4 customers, and using most of those profits to subsidize tier 1 and businesses.

            I’m NOT telling you to side with them. I’m telling you what WILL HAPPEN. If revenues from tier 3 & 4 customers keep going down as they build rooftop PV, then PG&E will raise rates. They’re not going to just operate in the red like you naively think they will.

          • eveee

            Slow down. Where is the proof that payout is 30c/ kwhr? I had at least 4 solar providers give quotes and explanations. Every one said you only get 13.5c/ kwhr on excess generation and that sizing the solar beyond demand was discouraged by the PUC. So no,you are never going to get a payment from the utility at that rate. What you get is a reduction in your utility bill. In fact, you normally have two bills, a much smaller utility bill and a bill to the solar provider if you lease, or you paid for the solar some other way. A utility payout of 30c/ kwhr is not the same as an avoided payment. I get that’s how you figure it, but it’s misleading. One could have an avoided payment by conservation. Should those with lower energy use subsidize those with more energy use? Should the ratepayers bear the burden of utility mismanaged overcapacity? Only if you think private profit and social loss are ok in a regulated monopoly. A few PUC have viewed this unfavorably, notably HELCO. In minnesota, value of solar seems to meet judicial approval and beyond. There may be some cause for balance between the residential and commercial PV and utility, but dumping it on the ratepayers is only going to cause more demand reduction, the so called utility death spiral. You seem a little one track minded. There are alternatives to utilities dumping their largesse on ratepayers. It’s called going to the stockholders and explaining to them why the dividend and stock value decreased

          • Mint

            Where is the proof that payout is 30c/ kwhr? I had at least 4 solar providers give quotes and explanations. Every one said you only get 13.5c/ kwhr on excess generation and that sizing the solar beyond demand was discouraged by the PUC.

            n-e-t m-e-t-e-r-i-n-g.

            If you’re in tier 4 you pay 36c/kWh, and so a lot of generation results in 36c/kWh less revenue for PG&E. As I said above, “this is true even if you did not have net excess for the month.”

            A utility payout of 30c/ kwhr is not the same as an avoided payment. I get that’s how you figure it, but it’s misleading. One could have an avoided payment by conservation.

            Net metering is *not* the same as conservation. If you conserve down to zero usage, then you could live off the grid. But if your solar panels bring you down to zero net usage, you still need the grid for your daily routine as much as a house w/o solar, its maintenance, its generators, etc.

            It doesn’t matter whether you think a penny saved is not a penny earned. What I described is the bottom line. Tiered billing has been in CA for ages, and there is zero market justification for it. It’s about advancing good public goals (cheap baseline energy for the poor, and punishing high energy use) via the CPUC’s regulation of utility monopolies.

            This same regulation prevents PG&E from swimming in high profits and also guarantees basic profits. It’s a mathematical necessity for rates to go up if everyone can use net metering and install solar. If you need a numerical example (which is as far as I can go, as I don’t have a utility revenue breakdown by tier), I can it to you. Net metering is not the same as someone going off the grid, which is true zero cost to the utility.

            Should those with lower energy use subsidize those with more energy use? Should the ratepayers bear the burden of utility mismanaged overcapacity?

            You got it backwards. Tiered rates subsidize lower energy users with the exorbitant payments from high energy users. And if there was overcapacity in CAISO, then why does it import a big chunk of its generation?

          • eveee

            its not a payout from the utility, its just using less and not paying exorbitant costs. So if the utility has less costly peakers, they save. The ratepayer uses less energy? The same thing can happen with conservation. The whole solar is making it more expensive is nonsense. Its lowering cost. The problem is the utilities are stuck with stranded assets. That happened before solar, just because demand has stopped growing. So they are stuck with all this excess capacity and want to charge the ratepayer for it. Private profit, socialized loss. You are the one with it backwards. TOU and tier were the utilities idea to for expensive baseload plants, with the hope of ever increasing demand. When demand plateaued, the utilities agreed with the PUC on heavy users paying a premium for excess demand through tier and TOU. That’s a way to reduce peaks and save T and D and generation cost. The reason you have it backwards is because all this time, energy savers have been hit with increased bills to pay for the few energy hogs that tipped peak loads up and forced higher rates. Now the energy savers finally get a break with tiers, but the utilities are still stuck with overcapacity. So they are trying to stick it to the ratepayer instead of the investors. Greed. Pure and simple.

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