A Colorado NABCEP PV Installer recently told us this:
Batteries and storage will be the next big phase, especially as our utility is pushing for DEMAND and TIME OF DAY rates for residential. Right now there is a request in front of the Colorado Public Utility commission for solar discriminatory rate structures, pushing customers onto an extreme TOU rate plus a meter fee of $79/month. These changes would impact retirees who’ve paid for systems to eliminate their electric bills but will be hammered if it passes. On my personal 5.2kW array, the increases would completely eliminate cost savings from the array entirely.
Without stability in the market, solar installers can’t bid confidently, which is shrinking the local market to repair work, with a particular focus on MLPE maintenance. There is also a crisis of under-performing commercial projects, whose solar cost savings estimates included demand-savings but no batteries.
Our state public utility commissions approve the consumer electric rate structures that form our electric bills. Historically, residential energy rates have been “simple”, commercial demand rates “moderate”, and industrial real-time rates “complex” in terms of energy management difficulty. The smart grid (one of those grid upgrades paid 100% for by ALL of us without an equitable distribution of benefits) allows retail electric providers to offer a variety of electric rates for voluntary participation, allowing customers to complicate their bill in exchange for mutually beneficial cost-savings.
But with distributed storage, solar, and the internet of things, a solar customer can potentially optimize their energy use regardless of their rate structure, ensuring they receive the optimal energy price allowed by the utility.
Managed distributed energy is of net-benefit to society:
- reducing expensive ramp-ups and ramp-downs of centralized power resources
- providing load-shifting from peak to off-peak times
- increasing the capacity of our distribution infrastructure
- drawing over 2:1 matching funds by voluntary private investors
- more secure against hacks and weather
- increasing electric supply without increasing demand
- 100% emission free power production
But this market niche cannibalizes existing power generation markets, as well as slow-to-adjust distribution markets.
Rather than determine a value-of-solar tariff for distributed solar energy, which can be lower than the retail price electricity, some rate providers choose to obstructing the transition to a cheap, clean grid by placing discriminatory fees against consumer-owned solar. These are the same consumers who were forced to pay for smart-grid upgrades, which resulted in stripping them of the net-metering benefits inherent to a non-digital meter. So much for equitable distribution of costs and benefits.
So even if you don’t personally own a solar array, the industry still needs you to support consumer-owned solar. It’s not just about cleaning the grid, it’s about consumer rights.