The distasteful commercials funded by out-of-state utility supporters, including Duke Energy, Edison Electric Institute and the Koch Brothers, stated that solar DG customers don’t pay their fair share of line maintenance. They’ve spent over $9 million for these negative ads, which are incorrect and misleading.
The graph below depicts the baseline charge or “connection fee” that all customers pay. It also shows that as the customer uses more power, there is more wear and tear on the distribution system. If the utility company were to be fair and accurate with their statements and charges for using the grid, they would charge more to the large power users.
Adding an additional tax to solar DG customers, the lowest users of the distribution grid, is unfair.
The baseline connection fee is for administrative, accounting, meter reading fees, etc. It is not for power generation and distribution. If the basic connection fee doesn’t cover costs of connectivity to the grid, fix the cost model and apply it fairly and unilaterally to all utility customers, not just the solar DG customers.
Utility companies are trying to discourage the growth of solar DG customers and build their own solar power plants where they get the revenue from the free source of power. Utilities would rather offer power generated by their owner solar farms at a premium even though the 30-year cost of generation to be significantly lower than all other power sources.
Global Warming/Climate Change Put Aside
Regardless of which side of the climate change fence you sit on, utility companies and solar DG customers can live together peacefully. The need for the grid will never go away. Solar only generates power when the sun is shining. Wind generators only generate power when the wind is blowing. Utilities will have to provide power when the sun isn’t shining. However, the utilities will need to have “smart grids.”
All fossil fuel power generation produces pollution. Coal-fueled power plants are the number one source of Green House Gasses (GHG) in the country. Solar electric power produces zero pollution, hazards or detrimental environmental side effects. Where are the fees or fines for Arizona fossil fuel power plant pollution cleanup, hazard and future waste disposal?
Can we so quickly forget the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Dan River Coal Ash disaster on March 22, 2014 by Duke Energy’s Edan Power plant, Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 that cost $6.8 billion, Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979 that cost $1 billion, BP Gulf oil spill in 2010, which cost $9.2 billion, etc.
Another common misconception is that solar electric power doesn’t need or deserve incentives. All energy sources receive federal incentives — coal, natural gas, fracking, oil, wind, etc. Renewable power sources received $46 billion in incentives in 2010. While that seems like a lot, remember that the federal government gave over $557 billion for fossil fuel incentives in 2008. And while all the renewable incentives are temporary, a little known fact is that many fossil fuel incentives are permanent.
Why does the utility company give energy reduction rebates for replacing refrigerators, air conditioning units, light bulbs, etc., but not for reducing energy consumption by installing solar? All the energy reduction, efficiency home improvements will asymptotically approach zero. But, with DG, a homeowner can easily approach net-zero energy consumption.
Why do APS and SRP invest in out-of-state power sources instead of in-state solar power? This leads to the assumption that they are fighting the growth of solar DG in the state and are only interested in their bottom line.
It is time for a bill to support and establish the sun as Arizona’s number one natural resource and assure the permanent and future financial strength of the state. This bill should stop all attempts that take any action to “tax the sun."
Lead image: Arizona sign via Shutterstock