You may have seen the spoof ad on the Internet in which a well-dressed, middle-age white man plays an executive.
“Here at Southern California Edison,” he says, smoothly and confidently, “we’re committed to rooftop solar energy. And by committed, I mean we’re committed to keeping solar panels off your roof.”
It’s kind of amusing if histrionic. More importantly, it’s part of a pushback that’s already started to try to blunt the effort by SoCal Edison and some other utilities to change the rate structure that customers pay for electricity. Contrary to the fake ad, the utilities aren’t committed to keeping solar panels off roofs. But they do want solar customers to pay their fair share. Or I should say, something a little closer to what their fair share should be.
Let’s remember: Residents with rooftop solar are getting a sweet deal. Their systems are subsidized, which means the rest of us are forced to help pay for them. And whatever excess power their panels produce, the utility must buy not at the wholesale price but at the retail price. No other state does that.
And those with solar systems on their roof still rely on the infrastructure of wires and generators and substations, which utilities call the grid. That’s because the rooftop solar customers still need the utility to provide them electricity at night, if the sun darts behind a cloud for a minute or when an air conditioner starts up and needs a surge of power. And, as noted, the rooftop solar households need the grid at the ready so they can sell their excess power.
The grid is expensive. SoCal Edison estimates that averaged out, each residential customer needs to pay $30 a month just to maintain it. But with more residents adding solar panels, the cost of maintaining the grid is being pushed off to nonsolar customers.
Part of the utilities’ initiative is a proposal that each residential customer – solar as well as nonsolar – pay as much as an additional $10 a month to help pay for the grid.
To me, it’s unfair to demand that nonsolar customers help make up the grid maintenance shortfall that’s being caused by the rooftop solar customers.
It’s another example of the sweet deal the rooftop solar customers are getting. Maybe they should put up a fake ad thanking the nonsolar customers for subsidizing their power bills at every step.