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Household Solar Popularity Builds, As Does Utility Industry Discomfort

Utilities and regulators should be looking forward, not backward, to find ways to invest in progress, rather than trying desperately to cling to yesterday's business model, which is based on encouraging consumption of polluting sources of energy.
May 12, 2015, 5am PDT | Hazel Borys
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Kaid Benfield offers up a review of what's happening with net metering of solar in the United States, and cautions us that it's getting political. "'US solar power grew by 6.2 gigawatts in 2014, a 30 percent increase over the previous year and representing nearly $18 billion in new investment,' according to data released last month by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research, reported by Daniel Cusick for ClimateWire and reprinted in Scientific American. A similar amount of growth is projected for 2015, adds Cusick, because of 'falling costs for solar panels and modules, business model innovation that allows for more flexibility in ownership, favorable political and regulatory environments, and increased access to low-cost capital.' Solar accounted for nearly a third of the nation’s new generating capacity in 2014, more than either coal or wind (though less than natural gas)."

"Unfortunately, it seems that whenever there is progress, there’s opposition. Some fossil-fuel-based utilities are getting uptight about losing market share, according to an article written by Joby Warrick and published in the Washington Post. Determined to slow the growth of solar, the companies have persuaded authorities in Arizona and Wisconsin to slap a monthly surcharge on consumers for the practice of 'net metering' described by Peter Murtha. They are targeting additional states, and Warrick reports that 'in some states, industry officials have enlisted the help of minority groups in arguing that solar panels hurt the poor by driving up electricity rates for everyone else.'"

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Published on Monday, May 11, 2015 in PlaceShakers
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