Clean Power solar barriers

Published on October 31st, 2012 | by John Farrell


How Archaic Utility Rules Stall Local Solar (Infographic)

October 31st, 2012 by  

solar barriers

Many people expect that solar power will dramatically expand once it bursts through the cost barrier and becomes less expensive than grid electricity. But archaic utility rules can effectively cap local solar development at just 15% of peak demand. Fortunately, pioneering states like Hawaii and California are exploring ways to lift the cap and bring utility rules into the 21st century.

This post originally appeared on ILSR’s Energy Self-Reliant States blog.

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About the Author

directs the Democratic Energy program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His seminal paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (, and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at

  • Daniel Ferra

    Japan and Germany will pay residents between 32- 52 cents per kilowatt hour, here in California they will pay us 4 cents per kilowatt hour, want to change our Feed in Tariff? Campaign to allow Californian residents to sell electricity obtained by renewable energy for a fair pro-business market price. Will you read, sign, and share this petition?

  • Ronald Brak

    If utilities insist on blocking rooftop solar installations, customers still have the option of seceding from the grid by purchasing battery storage and perhaps a small generator. This is a far from optimal solution as we’re better off if people feed their excess solar electricity into the grid, but as battery costs drop it will put a limit on how annoying utilities can be without losing a significant number of customers.

    I guess another option would be to install rooftop solar, but not export any electricity to the grid and so it wouldn’t be any of the utility’s business, but again that’s sub-optimal.

    • Agreed. My biggest hope for the cleantech future might just be super cheap home storage that can really decentralize electricity “power” and at least make utilities not act like total d***s

  • CAP@227

    Even though in So Cal Ed has installed so-called “smart” meters, the monthly bill is still calculated in tiers, so that, even with solar power for part of your usage, anything added at ANY time of day (particularly overnight automobile charging) will push your monthly bill into higher Tier 2 and Tier 3 electricity pricing….

  • RobS

    This is a complete non issue, there is one thing I guarantee will trigger changes to these rules; angry people.
    Once solar is cheaper then grid power and people know it I dare a utility to try and tell people they can’t have it and have to buy from the utility for more. They would be lynched and boycotted out of existence. Nothing other then natural justice will be needed for these rules to change I guarantee it.

    • Aaron Russell

      Well said, we must strengthen the universities and institutions that are perfecting the keys to our sustainable future. Once those super efficient panels come out the oven, It’s game over for failure.

    • Solar is cheaper in Hawaii, is it not?

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