Source: "Utilities wage campaign against rooftop solar," by Joby Warrick, Washington Post, March 7, 2014
Notes: According to this Washington Post article:
The demand for residential solar continuing to soar has electric utilities very worried. Utilities could soon face serious problems, from “declining retail sales” and a “loss of customers” to “potential obsolescence,” according to a presentation prepared at a recent utility industry conference. “Industry must prepare an action plan to address the challenges,” it said.
As a result, in states like Arizona and Wisconsin, utility backers mounted successful fee hikes through public utility commissions that could put solar panels out of reach for many potential customers.
“The utilities are fighting tooth and nail,” said Scott Peterson, director of the Checks and Balances Project, a Virginia nonprofit that investigates lobbyists’ ties to regulatory agencies. Peterson notes utility commissions, usually made up of political appointees, “have enormous power, and no one really watches them,” Peterson said.
Matthew Kasper, a fellow at the Energy & Policy Institute, a pro-solar think tank states: “Independent studies show that distributed solar benefits all ratepayers by preventing the need to build new, expensive power plants or transmission lines. Utilities make their money by building big, new infrastructure projects and then sending ratepayers the bill, which is exactly why utilities want to eliminate solar.”
Since 2013, nearly two dozen state houses introduced legislation to restrict residential solar. The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a nonprofit organization with financial ties to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, directly wrote some of the proposals.
Surprisingly, most of the bills were rejected or vetoed. The most-striking defeats came in Republican strongholds of Indiana and Utah. The anti-solar legislation encountered a surprisingly fierce attack from free-market conservatives and even evangelical groups, many of which have installed solar panels on their churches.
Angela Navarro, an energy expert with the Southern Environmental Law Center, sums up shifting trend from centralized utilities and to more independent solar users this way:
“It’s really about utilities’ fear that solar customers are taking away demand. These customers are installing solar at their own cost and providing a valuable resource: additional electricity for the grid at the times when the utilities need it most. And it’s all carbon-free.”