The Devil is in the Details

The solar industry has launched an industry-wide attack on the electric utility industry implying that they are all anti-solar.  Indeed there have been some noteworthy cases of underhanded behaviors, but decide for yourself whether the accusations are fair. Read the recent article in Solar Power World. 

Those of us who have been part of this dialogue since the beginning understand how the economics of projects depend in part upon the subsidized credits for power produced.  While that subsidy was appropriate to get the industry started, it is no longer acceptably economic at scale and places an economic burden on those least able to afford electricity and who definitely are least able to put solar panels on their roofs.

But notice the tone of the article and specifically note the elimination of any of these details over the decades.  We now know more fully what it will take to accommodate solar at scale and the economics of solar farms is a much more realistic and sustainable choice for society.  Utilities have jumped onto that bandwagon.  Rooftop solar is simply a bad idea compared to large scale solar farms on all fronts, and especially for grid resilience.

Perhaps the biggest lesson here is that the utilities did not “bring their customers along” on the intellectual and economic journey to arrive at this decision.  They simply assumed they could legislate to control their destinies.  It seems they assumed customers would simply go along with the change, and evidently they haven’t.

Once a legal battle ensues it is extremely costly to try to educate anyone… there is too much money to be made in the intellectual war.

The natural gas industry had better wake up and smell the roses.  You are next.

2 thoughts on “The Devil is in the Details”

  1. Joel – You are spot on about utilities not telling their story well and bringing customers along. But I think this is mostly due to the fact that it isn’t a good story to tell. I looked at average electricity prices among states which currently generate the highest percentage of power from wind and solar, and it’s no surprise that those states have seen the largest increases in prices in the past decade. States in the top quartile of wind+solar generation (as a percentage of total generation) have seen rates go up 18.5% since 2011, while the states in the bottom quartile of wind+solar generation have seen rates climb just 9.8%.

  2. The Solar industry is really twisting the messaging and taking advantage of consumers in the process. Promising “free” electricity and that utilities will pay them forever at grossly inflated rates and often forecasting greatly inflated system outputs. One person (I think this is common) explained how we would have sufficient electricity to power our home even during a black-out, but neglected to include any of the storage and connections required to do this.

    Well meaning ‘green’ organizations also promote solar as a panacea that could save the planet, without any understanding of how power grids or energy management work.

    I have no problem with solar, done right, but would never mount it on my roof, especially not given the overinflated prices that these companies are charging. Utility and neighborhood scale solar makes a lot more sense, while restructuring incentives to align with community and system value would also drive more optimized planning and solid business cases.

    I’ve read too many examples where homeowners spend 10s or thousands on a system only to find that it does not work, provides insignificant output, they don’t qualify for the promised incentives, and it goes on.

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