The Solar Surcharge

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  • ChrisOlsonChrisOlson Banned Posts: 1,807 ✭✭
    Re: The Solar Surcharge
    niel wrote: »
    the utility is the one that goes eminent domain, not the customer and they can't justify eminent domain for 1 customer. if they show it is for the greater good to push a power line through, the utility goes to the puc, or whatever is in charge, to get it approved at the utility's expense, which they pass along to all customers.

    That doesn't always work. A group of people being affected by it can file lawsuits in court and tie it up for 20 years. When you make it expensive enough for the utility they generally give up on it. That utility line that was going to run thru the North Woods here was stopped dead in its tracks by land owners. And that was 15 years ago. The line comes from some power conglomerate down south and it remains dead in its tracks yet today.

    They made it thru the populated areas down south where people are more sheep-like. But when they got here they ran into rebels with high-powered sniper rifles that know how to use 'em, and lawyers that own land in the 200+ mile stretch of the North Woods that will file suits and go to County Boards on their behalf for free to stop it.

    Attachment not found.

    The power company said the line would be built anyway. It never was. The power company went out of business or merged or got bought by some other congolmerate, and the project has been abandoned.

    Instead, another company came in and put up several 1.5 MW GE wind turbines on the bluffs on the North Shore:

    DSC_1451.JPG

    The power line was never needed in the first place. Those big GE 1.5's spin at 17 rpm, and run at just about full output with the clean winds that flow thru the Lake Superior region day after day. I got a whole bunch of real cool photos of when they were putting those turbines up. The Twin Ports has all the power it needs today - without that line that would've went in if people hadn't gotten up in arms over it (literally).
    --
    Chris
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: The Solar Surcharge

    Much of it depends on where you are. Here in British Columbia the power company is a Crown Corporation (government run monopoly). If any party has a majority government in power, they do whatever they want and the public might as well shout into the wind for all the good it will do them.

    Nevertheless B.C. Hydro quite often does do the right thing. Just sometimes they totally screw up policies/programs.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,339 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: The Solar Surcharge
    Niel, it's not always as simple as that. One of the reasons I am off grid is that the local utility will not extend lines without an easement from each property owner where the lines must pass and not all property owners around here grant such easements. Yes, I could use eminent domain to successfully litigate for the right to purchase an easement (at a very high cost - plus the expensive surveys) and could ultimately get the lines extended, but practically speaking if you don't want poles on your property here there will be no poles on your property.

    On the destruction issue, I am reminded of a problem that a company I used to work for had building utility projects in the Caribbean: copper thieves would steal wire and equipment almost as fast as it could be installed in some places. It was illegal there too, but as we well know the illegality of an act does not prevent it. It took posting men with guns on site 24/7 until the projects were built to solve the problem, and even then there were probably issues but they weren't our problem at that point!

    A funny story from India, I went to Mumbai a few years back to help them setup a data center. They were hand digging trenches and burying fiber optic cable. The big problem was they would come back the next day and thieves had stolen the fiber optic cable thinking it was copper. The fiber cable has little value for recyclers! LOL
  • chevensteinchevenstein Solar Expert Posts: 100 ✭✭
    Re: The Solar Surcharge
    niel wrote: »
    the utility is the one that goes eminent domain, not the customer and they can't justify eminent domain for 1 customer. if they show it is for the greater good to push a power line through, the utility goes to the puc, or whatever is in charge, to get it approved at the utility's expense, which they pass along to all customers.

    The above may hold for a big subdivision or transmission line (which even then may get bogged down for so long that it becomes impractical, per Chris' comment), but if you're building one, two, or twenty houses the utility will not lift a finger on your behalf if you do not have permission to cross the relevant property with power lines. Their interconnect permit application even explicitly states this - they reject them if certified copies of surveys and easements for access (which have to be 50 feet wide) are not attached. Town planning boards (towns that have them) will deny subdivision requests if they are not paired with legal access for power lines (and a road - same situation applies). This is a pretty good example of the city mentality versus more rural mentalities: people in a bigger town are fined if they do not cut their lawn regularly; here the local government needs written permission to plow the roads as most of the roads are just rights of way that run through private property.

    Back to off grid power: the same mentality difference holds. In town you would likely not be able to disconnect a residence from the utility as the town would consider it uninhabitable; here in the boonies the building inspector (if you have one) thinks an off grid house is the coolest thing since sliced bread.

    Note: in all cases the customer would be paying for the line extension, this is not a case of the utility being unwilling to pay to connect a singe customer.
  • tmarchtmarch Solar Expert Posts: 143 ✭✭
    Re: The Solar Surcharge

    What burns my butt here is that the WPA (government) installed the lines and now they claim it costs x amount to maintain them etc. Sure it costs something to maintain them and my state is a not for profit state, meaning the utility cannot show a profit. So you hire another office worker or give everyone a raise to cover any profit, pretty simple IMHO. And the current head cheese is continually talking about how the rest of the customers have to support those of us that choose to add renewables.

    Not only that but they want virtually $1.00 a day to have service to a pasture well that is only used 4-5 months a year + you get the privilege of buying the KWHs.

    Then they want me to pay them $150.00 a year to keep 4 poles in place that were connected to a trailer that is no longer there. Told them if they wanted to remove the poles to have at it, but make sure the holes were filled because if I had a critter step in them it would be the highest priced critter they ever saw. :)
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,140 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: The Solar Surcharge

    here is a very enlightening post about the trend that we have been discussing:

    http://grist. org/climate-energy/solar-panels-could-destroy-u-s-utilities-according-to-u-s-utilities/?utm_campaign=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter

    10 Apr 2013 7:30 AM

    Solar panels could destroy U.S. utilities, according to U.S. utilities


    the summary:

    One implication of all this � a poorly understood implication � is that rooftop solar f***s up the utility model even at relatively low penetrations, because it goes straight at utilities’ main profit centers. (It’s already happening in Germany.) Right now, distributed solar PV is a relatively tiny slice of U.S. electricity, less than 1 percent. For that reason, utility investors aren’t paying much attention. “Despite the risks that a rapidly growing level of DER penetration and other disruptive challenges may impose,” EEI writes, “they are not currently being discussed by the investment community and factored into the valuation calculus reflected in the capital markets.” But that 1 percent is concentrated in a small handful of utility districts, so trouble, at least for that first set of utilities, is just over the horizon. Utility investors are sleepwalking into a maelstrom.

    (“Despite all the talk about investors assessing the future in their investment evaluations,” the report notes dryly, “it is often not until revenue declines are reported that investors realize that the viability of the business is in question.” In other words, investors aren’t that smart and rational financial markets are a myth.)

    Bloomberg Energy Finance forecasts 22 percent compound annual growth in all solar PV, which means that by 2020 distributed solar (which will account for about 15 percent of total PV) could reach up to 10 percent of load in certain areas. If that happens, well:

    Assuming a decline in load, and possibly customers served, of 10 percent due to DER with full subsidization of DER participants, the average impact on base electricity prices for non-DER participants will be a 20 percent or more increase in rates, and the ongoing rate of growth in electricity prices will double for non-DER participants (before accounting for the impact of the increased cost of serving distributed resources).

    So rates would rise by 20 percent for those without solar panels. Can you imagine the political shitstorm that would create? (There are reasons to think EEI is exaggerating this effect, but we’ll get into that in the next post.)

    If nothing is done to check these trends, the U.S. electric utility as we know it could be utterly upended. The report compares utilities’ possible future to the experience of the airlines during deregulation or to the big monopoly phone companies when faced with upstart cellular technologies. In case the point wasn’t made, the report also analogizes utilities to the U.S. Postal Service, Kodak, and RIM, the maker of Blackberry devices. These are not meant to be flattering comparisons.

    Remember, too, that these utilities are not Google or Facebook. They are not accustomed to a state of constant market turmoil and reinvention. This is a venerable old boys network, working very comfortably within a business model that has been around, virtually unchanged, for a century. A friggin’ century, more or less without innovation, and now they’re supposed to scramble and be all hip and new-age? Unlikely.

    So what’s to be done? You won’t be surprised to hear that EEI’s ************ is mainly focused on preserving utilities and their familiar business model. But is that the best thing for electricity consumers? Is that the best thing for the climate?

    We’ll dig into those questions in my next pos
    t"


    less than rosey for some in the end...
     
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  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,339 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: The Solar Surcharge

    But they never take into account the lowering of the peakers needed in their grid. Here the summer peak load comes from AC, with grid tie that is reduced and the peakers would have to produce less. Cloudy weather? Oh the AC runs less hence the load is again lower. Plus they lower the infrastructure needs of the overall high tension system. During the "off months" they sell that excess power to the other customers with a full service delivery charge included but generally it is just a transformer away from a consumer.
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