As we Californian's ramp up to 33% renewable energy, I would like to send a polite message to the California Public Utilities Commission and, in fact, to all utilities in our 50 United States and DC, and their respective state and local utility commissions. The message is this:
Stop holding back distributed PV power, you bleeping yahoos!
As much as I love all sorts of solar, from CSP technologies and solar thermal, there is something very American about having the ability to put solar on my future dream home’s roof. (I rent right now.)
And yet, I'm seeing ominous signs that utilities and their PUC overlords are heading towards a totally centralized system that will put up roadblocks to going solar on my future solar home-sweet-home, or the future HQ of Solar Fred World--or any other non-Ute business.
What are these ominous signs? Let me count the ways: ::continue::
Let me be clear about my support for Big Solar. I want clean, renewable, energy through the sun and wind and water, and I realize we need Big Solar to accomplish this desire. Furthermore, I want all of you clean techies to succeed, profit, and replace every C02 source of power on the grid today. These huge sales and the PPAs that finance them are great. More solar power and profits to you. At the same time...
Distributed power from homes, schools, and business rooftops need to remain an open and significant part of our energy portfolio now--and in the future.
Therefore, I encourage everyone reading this to defend their ability now and in the future to produce their own clean solar energy. I love solar. I'm fascinated by its elegance as an individual clean energy source, and I do not want it exclusively in the hands of a few centralized utilities. That's why it's so important now to get a foothold in distributed markets. The more common it is in these early years, the less likely the Utes will be able to influence politicians and limit solar in the future in order to maintain their centralized monopoly.
Now I know I’m not an energy island and will have to use the grid today and in the future. Batteries and other storage mediums aren’t there—yet. So, utilities whine right now that solar people should be paying their "fair share" for transmission line upgrades, and that’s why it’s okay to fee-cow them into thinking twice about going solar.
Bull Twinkies. (Don't make me curse on Renewable Energy World.)
Those new smart lines will be used by everyone for many years to come. Right now, early solar adopters should be treated like clean energy heroes for investing their dollars in solar today while utilities get their centralized power act together for their own solar power plants.
And by the way, Solar manufacturers. Once the Utes have built those centralized solar farms and take care of the RPS? What then for the next 25 years? What market is going to be left? Why, the lowly homeowners and small businesses—but not if laws and regulations pass that artificially chip away and limit that market now and for the future.
So, when you think of the growth of this industry, don’t forget your own homes. Don’t forget your kids’ schools. Don’t forget the businesses that want to save money on energy today and tomorrow. They want solar too, but they're largely uneducated. Meanwhile, if we educated solar industry folk don't cry a collective foul to the PUCs today, I wonder if they’ll be able to get their solar in 10 years.
Thanks. As always, Unthink Solar.
Tor Valenza aka “Solar Fred” is a solar industry consultant and partner at solar referral service, SolarPowerRocks.com. You can contact him through RenewableEnergyworld.com and follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.
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