Electric utilities are required to provide service to any and all customers, but they are not obligated to do that and lose money in the process. Yes, there are some protected classes and situations where they may be forced to offer services below costs but they are then also allowed to recover those costs across other customer classes.
Perhaps the more important question today is “what is basic electric service” in the first place? Restoring service after storms is clearly implied, but offering underground service just because it is more reliable is clearly not. In fact, even though it seems to be the obvious answer to reduced outages due to wind it exposes utilities to even more widespread challenges when they have to deal with flooding.
Personally I would gladly pay a premium for enhanced electric service, but I would expect the lights to stay on all the time: something they don’t do during storms for sure. I was impressed how hard Georgia Power worked to restore service at our house when they detected that the problem was a damaged underground feed to our house. They did some amazing digging and then restored all our plants to their original places. Very impressive and a lot of people working together seamlessly.
But, let’s take a deep breath and step away from the front line situations and think creatively. Why do we assume people value things just because they are better? Don’t people buy “Junker” cars because they are prepared to face the maintenance headaches along with the cosmetic fixer upper tasks. Don’t you know people who buy dilapidated houses and fix them up and make money doing that?
Isn’t it time to recognize that many people have the same idea about electric service … they just want cheap service … they don’t value the reliability others do. As we continue to see our world segment into those who embrace and care about energy stewardship and those who don’t, isn’t it time the prices reflect that? Personally, I think it is high time we start thinking about this in all dimensions of electric service.
You want hassle free electric service with no requests for demand response and no warnings about system reliability? … you just want to flip the switch and be assured the lights come on? … you should pay more! Or, if you want to be a prosumer and partner with the energy industry as an active part of the system? You should pay … ?
Caught you! You wanted to end with “less” didn’t you? Why? Does it cost us less to partner with customers? Are they as good as the supply side options? If they do perform well, they will pay less. However, if they don’t they will pay more.
Our industry must face the music. We are on a path that leads squarely to pay for performance in all aspects. Just because you can afford solar and batteries doesn’t mean you are a partner to the industry. Act as one and your costs can go down. Act as a self-serving elitist and your costs for the electricity you continue to demand from the system will go up.
There is no free lunch.