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Arizona Approves Grid-Connection Fees For Solar Rooftops

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the that's-just-the-solar-cover-charge dept.

Power 363

mdsolar writes with this excerpt from Bloomberg News: "Arizona will permit the state's largest utility to charge a monthly fee to customers who install photovoltaic panels on their roofs, in a closely watched hearing that drew about 1,000 protesters and may threaten the surging residential solar market. The Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in the state, agreed in a 3-to-2 vote at a meeting [Thursday] in Phoenix that Arizona Public Service Co. may collect about $4.90 a month from customers with solar systems. Arizona Public is required to buy solar power from customers with rooftop panels, and the commission agreed with its argument that the policy unfairly shifts some of the utility's costs to people without panels. Imposing a fee designed to address this issue may prompt power companies in other states to follow suit, and will discourage some people from installing new systems, according to the Sierra Club."

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what cost (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442499)

shifts costs to the utility? What costs? A second meter base (which the customer has to pay for anyway) and a second meter? The second meter can't possibly cost $4.90/mo to maintain, over the typical life-time of a system.

Re:what cost (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442515)

Anything that generates electricity that is not a huge power plant is a threat to the electric company. They will do whatever they can to mitigate that threat. They do not want to become an entity in a world where everyone has generating capacity at their own homes, and they simply maintain a network or wires to share surplus amongst them and top them off at peak load times.

Re:what cost (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442821)

Not true.

The power company openly welcomes almost any generation on the grid. That power becomes a supplier. However the utility's most important goal is reliable power which solar notoriously difficult to provide.

Then there is the cost of supporting the transmission of electricity. Generation companies pay that as a fee, why shouldn't individuals. As a customer, I love the power company paying me for excess generation but as a utility worker, why should the utility pay retail cost for power (when the maintenance cost is high) and they can buy it cheaper elsewhere.

This isn't really an argument for the individual customers but for these groups (like cited in the original article) who provide you with 'low upfront costs' where you get almost little in return. Their solar panels, their federal tax incentives, generating on your rooftop for a small relief in power you buy from them. Funny how they are charging the homeowner a 'maintenance' fee already. They've been gaming the system and simply want to protect their profits.

Re:what cost (2, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | about 10 months ago | (#45442581)

Surely they should be penalizing those who don't have solar panels.

The way to cut costs is to remove the need for utilities.

Re:what cost (-1, Flamebait)

pallmall1 (882819) | about 10 months ago | (#45442751)

Surely they should be penalizing those who don't have solar panels.

BULLSHIT. People have had enough of Obamasitic lies. It is time to shove that global warming HOCKEYSTICK up YOUR ASS. You lying scum expect people to suffer for your LIES.

FUCK YOU!!

Re:what cost (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442765)

Nothing is impossible! The impossible is unknown with MyCleanPC!

Re:what cost (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442793)

People with solar panels could just ... you know ... disconnect from the grid and just use their own energy. They won't have to pay the fee either! Why won't they just do that?

Re:what cost (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442801)

thanks for contributing without knowing anything of the subject...

please google 'grid intertie' vs 'battery storage'...

Re:what cost (2)

ArbitraryName (3391191) | about 10 months ago | (#45443141)

Because of these things called "clouds" and also something called "night time".

Re:what cost (2)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about 10 months ago | (#45443053)

They shouldn't be penalizing anybody. If it makes sense to install solar panels, people will do it. No need for either fines or subsidies.

Re:what cost (5, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 10 months ago | (#45442707)

There is a cost of spinning reserve and grid stability maintenance. Why shouldn't those who need it or negatively impact it pay for it? The real cost should probably be even more, depending on the size of the installation. Its only $4.95/mo.

Look up those words before you use them (-1, Troll)

dbIII (701233) | about 10 months ago | (#45442887)

Things like these panels smooth out the peaks and mean less spinning reserve is needed. If you want to pretend you are in the electricity industry I suggest that you at least make the effort of looking around wikipedia to learn enough to put up a believable fake persona to justify your dinosaur nuke fanboy rants.

Re:Look up those words before you use them (1, Offtopic)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 10 months ago | (#45442919)

Are you the same nut that attacked me recently? I see you still have no capacity to control your emotions are state any actual useful information.

Maybe you can explain how panels smooth out peaks? They are not inductive. They peak and wane every day and even during the day. I suspect any response from you will not be informative but will rather be an attack, in which case you will get no further discussion from me.

Re:Look up those words before you use them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442979)

> hey peak and wane every day and even during the day. I suspect any response from you will not be informative but will rather be an attack, in which case you will get no further discussion from me.

Please attack him? This clown is frothing so hard it's impossible to see even his reasonable technical points. My glasses keep getting smeared with all the spittle.

Re:what cost (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 10 months ago | (#45442945)

It does depend on the size of the installation. $0.70 per KW capacity. Generally, customers who need more power need more grid service, including the spinning reserve you mention. And, since solar provides power at the highest demand periods, it costs those types of costs rather than increasing them. Though a bit more random, even wind is capping the expense of gas by putting the less efficient peakers off line to the extent that nukes are close because they can't compete. http://will.illinois.edu/nfs/RenaissanceinReverse7.18.2013.pdf [illinois.edu]

Re:what cost (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 10 months ago | (#45443021)

Nuclear has nothing to do with it. Spinning reserve is managed with fossil, gas, and hydro. The peak smoothing would be a more solid argument if solar produced a steady output during the peak 'work day'. Unfortunately, solar produces heaving only for a few hours of that higher need period. Various sources tend to ignore those impacts.

The solar fans would be much better suited to address the related issues and look for solutions rather than ignore and claim they don't exist.

Lots of costs (5, Informative)

Firethorn (177587) | about 10 months ago | (#45443051)

In the USA most don't get a second meter, they use what's called 'net metering'. IE if you generate, say, 500 kwh in a month and use 600, you only pay for 100 kwh, even if you only used 100 kwh during the time your panels were generating significant power and used the other 500 at night and such. If your install is big enough that you go negative(spin the meter backwards), you get paid.

While 'spinning reserve' can be a problem, the bigger expense right now is that homes with solar panels are effectively getting out of would be line maintenance expenses. It costs money to keep the distribution lines and equipment up, and they're still using said lines.

They're effectively being paid retail for the power they produce.

SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (1)

lesincompetent (2836253) | about 10 months ago | (#45442509)

What if they drop the APS utility altogether? What about starting a parallel renewable-energy fueled power grid?

Sums it up (5, Insightful)

ElementOfDestruction (2024308) | about 10 months ago | (#45442517)

The utility spent $3.7 million to promote its argument, compared with about $330,000 spent by the solar industry, according to documents filed with the commission.

Fuck these crooks. $3.7M buys a lot of infrastructure improvement.

Re:Sums it up (2, Insightful)

ZosX (517789) | about 10 months ago | (#45442551)

How long will solar panel owners be paying off their 3.7 million dollar victory at $5 a month? What an incredible waste of money.

Re:Sums it up (5, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | about 10 months ago | (#45443041)

They're not going to keep it at $5. By this time next year it'll probably be above $40.

Re:Sums it up (0)

Desler (1608317) | about 10 months ago | (#45443055)

Exactly. The people defending this as saying "it's only $5" are incredibly naive or simply shills. These companies will continue to raise the fees every year.

Re:Sums it up (0)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about 10 months ago | (#45443087)

They don't have to pay it at all. just disconnect from the grid. Who cares how much it costs they have solar panels. They can pay the $X ammount to the power company or buy batteries or sit in the dark. The choice is theirs. Why should they get a free ride using a service that others are paying for?

Re:Sums it up (3, Insightful)

The FNP (1177715) | about 10 months ago | (#45443121)

If they have 6000 solar panel connections at $5 per month: 10 1/3 years to repay $3.7 M. (Or with 60,000 solar connections, just over 1 year.) Since the utilities have to look decades into the future in order to make sure they can be profitable then too, its a small price to pay.

Plus, who's to say it stays at $5/mo.

--The FNP

Hope they speed up developing real batteries (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | about 10 months ago | (#45442523)

The Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in the state, agreed in a 3-to-2 vote at a meeting yesterday in Phoenix that Arizona Public Service Co. may collect about $4.90 a month from customers with solar systems .....
Arizona Public had requested a fee of $50 a month or more, and the commission’s decision “falls well short of protecting the interests of the 1 million residential customers who do not have solar panels,” Chief Executive Officer Don Brandt said in a statement. ... ...
“We preserved customer choice in Arizona while recognizing that these cost shifts are real,” said Bob Stump, chairman of the commission. “I think it’s a fair outcome.” The regulators overruled their staff, who recommended in September that the issue be taken up in the utility’s next formal rate case in 2015.
The utility spent $3.7 million to promote its argument, compared with about $330,000 spent by the solar industry, according to documents filed with the commission.

Oldest trick in the book. Ask for the moon ($50/month insanity) and cry when they hand you a sterling silver platter instead.

I sincerely hope cheap high density batteries come out in the next decade that will make grid tie completely moot point if all you want is energy at night.

Re:Hope they speed up developing real batteries (2)

Sique (173459) | about 10 months ago | (#45442649)

When cheap high density batteries hit the market, it's the utilities which will at first use them in large arrays, allowing them to leverage energy surplusses and redistribute them, and thus making their own cost of maintaining power much lower. Private energy systems won't be able to compete on price, making autarkic electric power systems an expensive toy for people with too much money at hand or too much paranoia in the brain.

Re:Hope they speed up developing real batteries (1)

ElBeano (570883) | about 10 months ago | (#45442719)

But private entities could band together and form cooperatives. I don't know why the Rural Electric Coops aren't all over this. A great deal could be done with a little organization.

Re:Hope they speed up developing real batteries (5, Insightful)

MrDoh! (71235) | about 10 months ago | (#45442777)

In the US? You'd have tv ads claiming this was a communist incursion.

Re:Hope they speed up developing real batteries (4, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 10 months ago | (#45443083)

That isn't possible here, because to share power among the members of the coop, you need electric transmission lines, and towers to hold them up, which means you need land, right-of-way, etc. You can only get that with the government's blessing, and they've already given that blessing to the local power utility monopoly. They're not going to give it to someone else, because the whole point of a utility monopoly is that you only need one set of infrastructure because it's infeasible to have dozens of sets of transmission lines running all over, so you give one company a monopoly for this, and have them regulated by the government so they don't go nuts with their monopoly. The government can't give other companies the same rights because then they'd be admitting they're doing a poor job in their capacity as regulators.

APS is right (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442531)

You still need fossil fuel power plants to regulate voltage. Those have to be paid for and solar installations are getting a benefit without paying for it. VARS aren't cheap. And bitching over 5 bucks a month - that is nothing.

Re:APS is right (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442575)

You still need the fossil fuel power plants to supply power during peak and when there's no sun. The solar customers are still using that service. There's no down side here since the fossil fuel plant is running anyway.

Re: APS is right (2, Insightful)

Alex Cane (3296683) | about 10 months ago | (#45442643)

You still need fossil fuels to power industry. Try running a aluminium smelter off a solar farm...

Re: APS is right (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442673)

The aluminum smelters have moved to Iceland where they run off hydro and geothermal.

Already widespread, dude. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442677)

And the highest consumer demand for power is during a hot sunny day.

And those are the days where there's most gained from solar power, so the other moron is wrong too.

Renewable energy preferred for smelting (0)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 10 months ago | (#45442853)

Aluminum smelting prefers the cheapest power source. This has been renewable energy for a very long time. Here is what they do in Iceland where smelting is their largest consumer of electricity http://arcticecon.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/aluminium-smelting-in-iceland-alcoa-rio-tinto-alcan-century-aluminum-corp/ [wordpress.com]

Solar is headed towards being the cheapest source so it is likely that smelting will shift away from hydro to solar in the next couple of decades.

Re: APS is right (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 10 months ago | (#45442991)

At least during the day, in Arizona, that shouldn't be a problem, use mirrors to focus the light and heat the aluminum. No need to waste energy converting to electricity then back to heat.

Gov't in infrastructure (-1, Troll)

roman_mir (125474) | about 10 months ago | (#45442533)

That is just one tiny example of why gov't shouldn't be regulating any businesses, why it shouldn't be involved in any projects, including infrastructure - no competition. If this law passes, it just gives the gov't established monopoly a special power to tax people because they have no competition. No competing grids, no competing roads, no competing water and sewer and garbage providers, etc.etc. This company COULD, in a free market, do the same thing: impose a fee like that. However if it did, people would have a choice to switch to another provider, however that would have been done, but we can't even KNOW at this point, because of gov't meddling, which gives monopolies to the most connected players.

Re:Gov't in infrastructure (3, Insightful)

Crimey McBiggles (705157) | about 10 months ago | (#45442593)

The free market argument is a weak one, and doesn't correlate with the reality in which we live. Have you seen the way "free market" ISPs operate in regards to competition? Doesn't work so well does it? With many geographical areas being locked into a choice between AT&T and Time Warner, there is virtually no competition. There are many who are arguing that ISPs should be treated as public utilities so that they can't throttle competing services that traverse their wires, requiring government intervention.

If you want to argue that the government is screwing something up and needs to get its hands out of something, I'd look towards the military industrial complex.

Re:Gov't in infrastructure (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442745)

Have you seen the way "free market" ISPs

Protip: Such a thing doesn't exist in the US. You know why you have a shitty choice in Internet providers? Because your local government sold you out.

Re:Gov't in infrastructure (2)

Desler (1608317) | about 10 months ago | (#45442953)

We have a shitty choice because ISPs lobbied to get municipalities to give them exclusive monopolies and ISPs choose amongst themselves to not compete with each other in certain areas. The best part is then the ISPs come back around and act like the very things they lobbied for were against what they wanted.

Re:Gov't in infrastructure (2)

frdmfghtr (603968) | about 10 months ago | (#45442651)

That is just one tiny example of why gov't shouldn't be regulating any businesses, why it shouldn't be involved in any projects, including infrastructure - no competition. If this law passes, it just gives the gov't established monopoly a special power to tax people because they have no competition. No competing grids, no competing roads, no competing water and sewer and garbage providers, etc.etc. This company COULD, in a free market, do the same thing: impose a fee like that. However if it did, people would have a choice to switch to another provider, however that would have been done, but we can't even KNOW at this point, because of gov't meddling, which gives monopolies to the most connected players.

While I generally agree that the marketplace should decide who wins and loses, there are some things that are impractical to leave to the market. Taking your example of roads: how would you picture a road system for a city that allows for multiple "road providers?" How would new players enter the market? I ask because I can't picture having multiple road grids in the same geographical area that doesn't end up with more roads than buildings (picture downtown Chicago with the local lanes and express lanes everywhere in the city).

Re:Gov't in infrastructure (0, Troll)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 10 months ago | (#45443107)

In a libertarian's ideal world, you'll only have one road to your house (since obviously, there's only room for one; it's kinda hard to have two roads joining up at one driveway), and you'll simply have to pay a toll to whoever owns that road. And since you have no choice, you'll have to pay whatever toll that person or company wants you to pay. But libertarians don't see the problem with this.

Re:Gov't in infrastructure (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442755)

In addition to APS, the campaign against solar energy is being waged by ALEC and a group called 60 Plus, both funded by the Koch brothers and other far right/libertarian persons and groups.

Re:Gov't in infrastructure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442941)

Riiiight. Because APS or any other private energy company wouldn't have charged this fee if not for the regulatory agency? You're fucking delusional.

I'm OK With This, But... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442541)

I'm OK with a grid connection fee. It is reasonable.

However, I am not OK with some other policies that I have seen, such as no buyback for excess generation. Or, as in my case, the policy is such that regardless of how much excess generation you pump into the grid, there will NEVER be a net on the bill. The bill will always be at least ~$30 even if I pump 20MW of excess generation back into the grid.

It really pisses me off. But, luckily, the state commission just approved another rate hike that "will benefit consumers".

BS (4, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 10 months ago | (#45442549)

If i produce power and give it back to the system they should be paying ME, not the other way around. WTF.

Its not hard to avoid not feeding back into the "system", but what sort of nonsense is this where you get penalized for trying to be a good citizen.

Re:BS (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442573)

Its not hard to avoid not feeding back into the "system", but what sort of nonsense is this where you get penalized for trying to be a good citizen.

This is America, where undercutting the large corporations doesn't make you a good citizen, it makes you an enemy of the state.

If people had solar, that would undercut oil. And they're not going to allow that.

Re:BS (2)

DrPBacon (3044515) | about 10 months ago | (#45442577)

How many monkeys does it take to run a power grid? All of them.

Re:BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442925)

I get penalized (taxed) being a good citizen all the time.

Sounds reasonable enough (3, Interesting)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 10 months ago | (#45442565)

If you have solar panels and don't want to sell your excess back to the utility then don't . But don't try to pretend that you don't make use of the grid when you do. The public utility has been forced to buy your excess energy at above market rates thus pushing up costs to everyone. Stop crying about being treated like a wholesale power supplier.

Re:Sounds reasonable enough (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442703)

Requiring the utility to buy at above market rates was a useful incentive for people to install panels in the early days.

Sounds like it's time to change that part.

What's the basis for this fee? (5, Informative)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 10 months ago | (#45442709)

According to the information I find about Arizona net metering [dsireusa.org] , the power you generate offsets your bill (at retail rates) until your bill is zero; after that you are paid wholesale for any excess:

"Net metering is accomplished using a single bi-directional meter. Any customer net excess generation (NEG) will be carried over to the customer's next bill at the utility's retail rate, as a kilowatt-hour (kWh) credit. Any NEG remaining at the customer’s last monthly bill in a calendar year will be paid to the customer, via check or billing credit, at the utility’s avoided cost payment. "

If this is really true, then the utility is making a profit reselling the power you generate. So what's the basis for this fee they want to charge?

Re:What's the basis for this fee? (5, Informative)

MindStalker (22827) | about 10 months ago | (#45442731)

The "fee" is the cost of maintaining the grid and power-lines.

Re:What's the basis for this fee? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442881)

the fee which is paid for by your neighbors whom are paying for the power the utility bought at wholesale from you the solar producer, and the ultility marks up 500%? Plus the additional $8 a month "customer fee" for the pleasure of being hooked to the grid? Oh and plus the massive subsidies given to the utilities by the government? Those poor utilities certainly can not afford to upgrade their infrastructure without feeding at the government trough.

Re:What's the basis for this fee? (0)

Desler (1608317) | about 10 months ago | (#45442961)

No, the fee is simply profit on top of their other profit taking.

The connection fee they pay should cover that (2)

Marrow (195242) | about 10 months ago | (#45443023)

Every electric bill contains a fee to remain connected.

Re:What's the basis for this fee? (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 10 months ago | (#45442883)

the utility is making a profit reselling the power you generate.

Not only that, but because solar generates the most energy in the middle of the day which is also when there is the highest rate of consumption, it helps to reduce peak demand. Peak demand is the most expensive kind of electricity to generate because most electric plants aren't variable, they are either on or off and spinning them up costs a lot of money.

Residential solar also reduces the need to build an entirely new plant to handle peak demand. It really is a big-time win for most utilities. Them going after solar-connection fees is kind of like ISP's wanting to double-charge both customers and big websites like youtube for bandwidth.

Maybe, one day, when residential solar has a much higher installation rate, it would be fair to charge a "grid fee" - but right now it's pure gravy.

Re:What's the basis for this fee? (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 10 months ago | (#45443025)

> It really is a big-time win for most utilities.

Except that building in the necessary safety management, and power management, to deal with current coming the other way from your customers is not free. Clients with solar panels are unlikely to call the electrical plant and announce when they are disconnecting for maintenance. And clouds passing over an area can cause serious variation in the customer provided solar power, in highly variable fashion that affects whole neighborhoods of panels.

It's extra work to design flexible, robust systems, so it is hardly "pure gravy".

Re:What's the basis for this fee? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 10 months ago | (#45443077)

Except that building in the necessary safety management, and power management, to deal with current coming the other way from your customers is not free

Not free, just a tiny drop in the bucket. You are encouraged to provide citations that prove otherwise.

Clients with solar panels are unlikely to call the electrical plant and announce when they are disconnecting for maintenance.

Such a rare event that mentioning it really looks like grasping at straws.

And clouds passing over an area can cause serious variation in the customer provided solar power, in highly variable fashion that affects whole neighborhoods of panels.

Clouds also reduce demand for electricity because A/C is the primary form of electric consumption during the day.

Re:Sounds reasonable enough (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 10 months ago | (#45442725)

Its funny how people who are so willing to take taxpayer money to pay 30% of their solar energy cost complain about paying their share when it comes to grid stability.

Re:Sounds reasonable enough (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 10 months ago | (#45442965)

Except they are "paying their share" by allowing this very utility to resell their energy at a much higher rate than they bought it.

Re:Sounds reasonable enough (0)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 10 months ago | (#45443005)

Not if they are forced to pay retail rate for power. And not so much customer swings from production to usage.

Re:Sounds reasonable enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442825)

Net metering is fucking idiotic.
Have out/in counting meters. pay wholesale rate for feed-in.
Hey look, built-in incentive for people to adapt usage habits to match their generation.

Re:Sounds reasonable enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442903)

citation please? PECO sure as hell is not buying back my solar at above market rates.

Re:Sounds reasonable enough (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 10 months ago | (#45443117)

Around here, they only need to buy back your excess until your bill is zero. At which point they don't need to pay you anything. You still have to pay your service connection fee, no matter what.

My guess is that Arizona has a higher rate of solar usage because of lots of sun and lots of heat. We all know solar is hard on the grid in large amounts because of its changing power output.

Protest time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442571)

I was thinking more along the lines of people stocking up and staging a nice protest next spring/summer. Be pretty fun if half their customers dropped service for a couple months and just used their solar. Wonder how nice their profits would look for those other million customers.

Re:Protest time? (1)

heypete (60671) | about 10 months ago | (#45442615)

I was thinking more along the lines of people stocking up and staging a nice protest next spring/summer. Be pretty fun if half their customers dropped service for a couple months and just used their solar. Wonder how nice their profits would look for those other million customers.

That probably won't work: most (all?) grid-tie solar systems will cut off the solar panels if the grid connection is interrupted (so as to avoid feeding power back into the lines in an outage, which would endanger utility workers). Battery-backed solar systems could run independently, but are considerably more expensive and require more maintenance than simple grid-tie systems.

Also, most (again, all?) states have legal requirements that inhabited dwellings have basic utility service (e.g. electricity, water, sewer, etc.). If people were to cut off their power for several months they would likely be in violation of the law.

Re:Protest time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442685)

This.
Go off-grid and cancel utility power, your house gets condemned because it's "uninhabitable".
Go off-grid and don't cancel utility power, get repeat "random" visits because anyone using 0kWh/month is clearly stealing power.

Arizona is a fascist state (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442603)

If you are stupid enough that you choose to live in AZ,
you deserve whatever you get.

I already pay a $10.60 fee just to be a customer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442657)

It's a separate itemized charge on my bill. I imagine Arizona Public charges something similar.

For that matter I'm charged the residential rate. I suspect commercial customers pay more.

So customers with panels will pay an extra $5 for the privilege of being a customer. Some customers are more equal than others. Nothing new about that.

But I'm waiting for the day when I walk into an ice cream store am told that my ice cream cone is $3 and there's a $10.60 customer charge for a total of $13.60 for my ice cream cone.

Shifting costs... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442661)

...and if the utility had dedicated that $3.7 million from advertising to implementing better grid interoperability or storage options it could have been a win for both sides. If nothing else, increasing the one time Engineering charge that most utilities require to connect to a utility and implementing a "PV throttle" via smart grid or minimum hold up requirements (sag ride through, dP/dt limits, supplying short circuit current support,etc) could solve alot of these issues. It's time for the local electric monopolies to put a little skin in the game and develop a requirements doc to satisfy interoperability with their grid systems. UL1741 covers basic safety and this is necessary, but it's clear there's a missing link. Distributed PV should be a net gain for the energy industry -- aiding during peak use hours; the two sides of the industry need to start reaching across the aisle and resolve their differences.

-Panz

I don't understand (4, Insightful)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | about 10 months ago | (#45442671)

I'm not sure I understand the logic of the commission (that is, the logic of their stated argument, as opposed to the unspoken "we just got $3.7 million from the utilities so we'd better side with them" argument that we all suspect).

The Arizona Corporation Commission says that this fee is necessary because people who use solar are foisting off some of the maintenance cost onto the other customers who do not use solar panels.

Some residents installed solar-electric panels on their homes. Any excess energy they generate is sold back to the utilities, transmitted through the utilities infrastructure. The utilities are claiming that this is costing its other, non-solar customers money. But how?

It's not costing them money in infrastructure; that is still being paid for by all its customers - including those using solar power, as they are still hooked up to the grid and paying Arizona Public for the service (necessary, I suppose, for the occasional cloudy day in AZ). The maintenance costs of the lines are included in this service, just as they are for any other Arizona Public customer; it is not as if AP had to hook up any extra lines to these users of solar power, or as if the lines remain connected and the solar-customers aren't paying for the privilege.

The utility has to pay for the juice they receive back from these solar-customers, but they can then redistribute this power to other non-solar customers. AP need generate less electricity. I /suppose/ that AP might be operating at loss here if they have to pay out more per watt than it costs them to generate it themselves, but I have strong doubts this is the case. More likely, they are getting a deal on the extra volts and saving by not having to buy extra fuel for their generators.

In either case, I do not see how the use of solar would raise the cost of electricity for non-solar customers. Maintenance is shared equally among all customers, and purchased electricity from solar users saves the corporation money. There's no added cost to be passed on to non-solar customers.

There is a danger of becoming irrelevant (and unprofitable!) if solar usage takes off, but - while that may be the real concern of the utility - that is /not/ the argument that they are making.

Is the Arizona Corporation Commission's case that blatantly bogus or am just I missing something?

Re:I don't understand (2, Informative)

zippthorne (748122) | about 10 months ago | (#45442721)

With net-metering, the pay back to solar panel owners feeding the mains is basically the retail rate for power. By definition, this rate is higher than the utility's cost to produce power. Further, solar is fairly variable, so there the utilities don't get to shut down any plants as a result of the solar electric.

The remaining question is whether they can scale back production to match the solar input, and can do so rapidly enough that the solar panels really are offsetting power production in some fashion, or if the net metering subsidy is really a gimmick.

Re:I don't understand (3, Insightful)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | about 10 months ago | (#45442823)

With net-metering, the pay back to solar panel owners feeding the mains is basically the retail rate for power

Thank you. I was unaware - and quite surprised - by this. The retail rate, of course, includes bundled into it part of the maintenance costs so technically Arizona Public's - and the Arizona Corporation Commission's - argument does have merit.

I am surprised because I would have bet good money that the utilities would have arranged things so they bought back electricity at a lower rate than it cost them to generate the same amount of power - isn't that sort of conniving how corporations usually manage things here? - but in this case it works to the benefit of the customer.

Looking solely at the argument present by AP and the ACC, I now understand their logic. Of course, I don't /agree/ with their argument, since it focuses primarily on the short-term benefit of the power utility and does nothing to encourage moving us towards renewable energy sources, but as that was a factor that was cleverly ignored by the lawyers, I suppose their argument - limited in scope as it is - is sound.

Ultimately, I believe this will be taken to court. Hopefully there the larger implications of this decision will be tested and the ACC's judgement found wanting.

Re:I don't understand (1)

BringsApples (3418089) | about 10 months ago | (#45442771)

You're not calculating all of the people that work at the power company, and the paycheck that they need. So basically, if there are still physical components that the power company is required to to do upkeep on, then they need to keep a staff to do so.

Suppose that everyone goes all in on solar, and they each have enough electricity during sunshine periods to run their whole house, and what they don't use gets sold back to the power company. Then during times when there is not enough sunlight to really run your home, they need to get electricity from the electric company. This leaves the power company in the hole, eventually not able to do regular upkeep on their components (lines down!) or pay their staff (dude, lines down!), eventually leaving everyone without electricity (because no one wants to work for the power company because it sucks so bad).

Yes it'd be great if everyone could live by the sun during the day, and burning wood at night, but with all the people on the planet, there's no way that can happen (at least not the wood burning part), and so we're all left with what we have now. Yeah, the power company could come down on their rates, and pass the savings to the fat-cats that live nicely off of those rates, but it's not going to happen because you're in a capitalist country. So unless the government takes over controlling the power throughout the country (ouch), the way the current power company runs things seems to be as nice as it can get, without significant changes to other parts of our lives that is.

Re:I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442795)

It is to cover the cost for grid maintenance. You are connected. Unless there is a difference in the price of electricity of what you use versus produce, if you produce a net result of zero, you pay nothing. BUT... at almost any given moment there is a current flowing in or out of you property.

My meter is still very analog, which would mean that the disk would turn in the opposite direction and in the end only be showing the net result.

When there is a price difference, then the old mantra of buying low, selling high is valid, and the grid could pay for itself, no fee necessary, looking more and more like the stock market with the occasional crash, but would I care? .... eh ... I might.

Re:I don't understand (1, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 10 months ago | (#45442815)

I do not see how the use of solar would raise the cost of electricity for non-solar customers

There is a cost associated with keeping a local gas or coal plant running at, say, 30% power ready to make up for shifts in solar and wind input. Plants run most efficiently at 100%, and there is significant efficiency loss running at lower output. Also, the fixed costs of the running the plant (staff, etc) remain the same, even though less power is being produced, thereby further increasing the power production costs from that plant. Don't underestimate this cost. The need for this spinning reserve is increased significantly with a large solar and wind component on the grid.

Demand is not flat (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 10 months ago | (#45442921)

Demand is not flat and the peak is in the day when all this solar stuff is making life a hell of a lot easier for power distribution. I think I worked that out in the first week I was involved with electricity generation back in the 1990s when there was almost nothing but coal and small hydro on my state's grid, so are you slow or are you not actually in the electricity generation industry?

Re:Demand is not flat (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 10 months ago | (#45442969)

Well, then, explain what happens during the day as cloud cover moves over a large area. Solar input drops and it must be made up with traditional sources. Fossil and gas need to spin up. But Fossil plants take hours to start from cold, and gas plants lose money if they are not running at full. Spinning reserve is required even for that slow moving peak. Those resources must be ready and available. You can argue to which extent they are needed, but do dismiss that need shows me you don't get the bigger picture of how grid stability is maintained.

Re:I don't understand (5, Interesting)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 10 months ago | (#45442855)

> It's not costing them money in infrastructure; that is still being paid for by all its customers - including those using solar power

So lets say I put up exactly the number of panels that net meters me to zero on a yearly basis.

Due to night, seasonality, weather, etc, that means that what's actually going on is that I'm exporting major quantities of power during the day, and then buying from the grid those other times. So it's not like I'm not using the infrastructure just as much as the guy next to me that doesn't have panels. In fact, I'm using it more.

Yet because my bill is zero, I'm paying less than him as a function of maintaining the grid. It shouldn't be that way, but it is.

The contrary argument is equally interesting. Let's say I don't put up that many panels, but just one of them. That produces about the same amount of power that my fridge uses daily. So in fact, there is exactly zero difference between putting up a panel, and buying a new energy star fridge. Both of those will have the exact same effect on my total use of the grid. Yet in one I will now be charged $4.90 a month, and the other I won't.

The actual problem here is that some of the grid cost is buried in the electricity rate. If they truly separated the two, then this problem wouldn't have existed in the first place. However, that is likely on the order of hundreds of dollars a month. For the average user the cost would be identical in the end, one line on the bill would go up and another down. However, for people who sip power, or turn it off completely (at the cottage in the winter), their bills will go way up.

Re:I don't understand (1)

Burdell (228580) | about 10 months ago | (#45442907)

Let's say you and I can both buy a shelf at Wal-Mart for $10. Now I start making shelves for myself instead, and make an exact duplicate of Wal-Mart's $10 shelf. Should my nearest Wal-Mart be required to buy my shelf for $10, transport it to your nearest Wal-Mart, and then sell it to you for $10? They have trucks already, so why should they charge me for the transportation costs?

I /suppose/ that AP might be operating at loss here if they have to pay out more per watt than it costs them to generate it themselves

That's exactly the case. If they charge residential customers $0.10/kWh, you don't think all $0.10 goes to pay for the power plant, do you? They have to transport the power from the plant to the customer's location (which has loss in the system; they have to generate more than 1 kWh to deliver 1 kWh), they have to meter how much the customers use, bill for the usage, maintain the system, etc.

Pick-up and deliver only makes sense when you get more for the delivery than you pay for the pick-up.

Re:I don't understand (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 10 months ago | (#45442915)

I think you are missing that they have to maintain expensive 2-way meters only for the solar customers. And now they want to charge a $5 fee as being fair for the monthly rental of that box.

Re:I don't understand (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 10 months ago | (#45443137)

Solar distributed among the populace has better locality and reduced transmission losses, assuming transformers are just as efficient both ways.

Simple restructing of the fee (5, Insightful)

l2718 (514756) | about 10 months ago | (#45442683)

The cost of delivering power has two components: fixed costs (say, power lines to the home) and variable costs (say, of producing the power) The current system was to bundle the fixed costs into the variable ones, and just chage proportional to consumption. Since those selling back power to the grid still need to pay for the fixed costs, this principle of this change seems right. Better execution would have been to add the fixed cost to everyone and make a corresponding reduction to the marginal (per KWh) tariff, at which point those with and without solar panels would be treated equally.

Re:Simple restructing of the fee (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 10 months ago | (#45442895)

Exactly.

Re:Simple restructing of the fee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45443089)

Unfortunately "everyone ... being treated equally" was probably never the objective.

Getting Rid of The Population (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442701)

That's a tax. Shouldn't it be illegal for a private corporation to merely collect taxes - from people that don't recieve any service from them? Like tollroads that bill you even when you don't use them, because others do and you might benefit from their services and economic activity? That's a shakedown on scant pretence. They already pay a public lighting tax, right? That's like those medieval "window taxes", or "roof taxes", or "beard taxes", fromm King John's days.

Sounds like slumlords that are trying to get rid of the tenants, in antecipation of a land development scheme of some kind. That's what happens when you disarm a population. They become sheep for the slaughter.

Re:Getting Rid of The Population (1)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about 10 months ago | (#45443035)

How is this "from people that don't receive any service from them"? If you don't have a solar panel, you don't pay it. If you have panels, but don't sell back to the utility, you don't pay it. If you have a panel, you sell back to them and they have to provide the infrastructure to do so, then you pay the extra.

Worst Law Of All (3, Insightful)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 10 months ago | (#45442717)

This law is the equivalent of telling your wife you love her while beating her half to death. Society should love people who conserve energy and our government has begged the public to conserve for decades. So laws that encourage people to use solar power are all that we should have. This new tax will hold back solar installations which is exactly what the government claims it does not want. The same is true for electric cars. Electric cars avoid a gas tax so some states now have a special fee for allowing people to use electric cars under the guise that they are not paying their fair share of road taxes. In the case of a fee applied to solar powered homes the tiny fee first required means little. But it puts people on notice that that fee will grow and grow over time. The simple truth is that as more and more homes go solar the grid, in effect, gets smaller and smaller but still has the same maintenance fees which must be passed on to the people who use the grid. Therefore we should expect electric prices to rise for those that do not install solar which will encourage more and more people to go solar. At some point the power gri will not be needed at all for homes and industry will be the only consumer.

Sounds fair to me (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 10 months ago | (#45442803)

"may collect about $4.90 a month from customers with solar systems. Arizona Public is required to buy solar power from customers with rooftop panels"

They likely charge about the same for connecting for import, so this seems perfectly fair to me.

And I install solar panels for a living.

Re:Sounds fair to me (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 10 months ago | (#45443071)

It only seems fair if your naive enough to think the fee will never be raised. Especially if more and more people get panels.

This is incredibly informative...! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442809)

.. so I don't expect any slashdotters to read it.

http://erc.ucd.ie/files/theses/Eleanor%20Denny%20-%20A%20Cost-Benefit%20Analysis%20of%20Wind%20Power.pdf

It's a recent doctorate thesis examining the impact of wind power on the Irish Grid, and it explains a lot of the damaging effects that putting variable power supplies can have on a grid.

To save you going through the maths, it comes to the conclusion that, with best possible assumptions, a maximum of 30% power from variable renewable supplies can be accepted. With worst assumptions, the figure is 5%. Beyond these figures, costs are in excess of the benefits gained, and remain so up to 100%. That includes things like fuel costs, which are actually greater due to increased base-load cycling.

The Irish power stations are fairly old and inefficient. On a more modern grid, the 30% figure would come down to about 20%. At all times the variable supplies add some value, and take some away due to their variable nature.

The charge applied by Arizona will offset some of this grid damage due to variability.

   

Disgusting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45442819)

APS is clearly in bed with the State. Shameful.

Sierra Club is full of shit (1, Insightful)

sribe (304414) | about 10 months ago | (#45442843)

Let's see, you're probably planning to spend $15,000-$20,000 after factoring in the incentives, in the hope that you'll reduce your power bills by enough to pay for that in some reasonable time. But, then, OH NO you discover that you'll have to pay $4.90/month, so of course you immediately abandon your plans, because now it's utterly hopeless that the project might ever have a decent return. Yeah, right...

Don't all customers use the grid? (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 10 months ago | (#45442893)

It seems to me that all customers should be charged this fee and their per kwh fee reduced. This is a service that benefits all customers, not just solar panel owners. In some ways, non-solar customers use the gird even more that the home generators. It is a matter of getting the power charge, the distribution charge and the connection charge properly balanced across the board.

Do they have a connection fee in Arizona? (2)

Marrow (195242) | about 10 months ago | (#45442909)

I have to pay 15 dollars a month, about half my bill right now, just to stay connected to the grid. So adding another massive dis-incentive for conservation really does seem unfair. You can never conserve your bill to zero.
As more homes get built with solar pre-installed, I look forward to the time when entire subdivisions buy a "community battery" and never need fossil.

Cost of Doing Business (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45443011)

$4.90 a month is fine, of course I'll have to raise the cost of electricity I sell back to the grid to offset the new fees. Cost of business get's passed on to the customer.

A simple solution (1)

kilodelta (843627) | about 10 months ago | (#45443033)

Disconnect from the grid entirely. But yeah - raise the fee - or try to do it. You'll find that your electric provider has the upper hand in setting those rates. They're a protected monopoly after all.

I have to wonder though with the advances in storage technology - I mean a stupid rule like this would just force me to go off grid completely.

Meanwhile In Kalifornia.... (1)

freeschwag (134804) | about 10 months ago | (#45443095)

Current smart meters just run backwards when you generate power, no second meter or upgraded equipment is needed. They have it locked down out here, to the benefit of the 1% of course. Current regulations do not allow private home solar systems to sell excess power, your bill can go to zero and any excess is free bonus to the power company. :/ I'm surprised they don't impose a fee here to "offset" the cost of accounting for and distributing that excess. :)

The best way to check your own opinions (1)

rbrander (73222) | about 10 months ago | (#45443105)

...is to turn the question around. There are two electrical generation utilities connected by a wire: your solar panels and their big fossil plant. Their problem is that they are *required* to buy power from yours when yours happens to be generating, whether they need any power or not. They *have* to turn down or shut off their big plant whenever your system feels like doing some output.

How would most of us feel about being *required* to buy electrical power whenever their plant is underutilized and needing some extra work? Plus, they can build it up all they want and thus make you buy more?

It all imposes costs and they're attempting to recover them. That said, all profit-making utilities love to exaggerate their costs to regulators so as to be allowed higher income, all such claims need to be checked, and the budget for the checking - and the internal information made available to the checkers - needs to be as much as the utility had for the request to the regulator.

With that caveat, there's nothing wrong with this; the system imposes a cost, they deserve compensation. Any contrary view is really based on a belief that solar power people are inherently "good" and the utility is inherently "bad" by using fossil fuels and thus deserve to be punished for their sins.

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