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Anti-Solar Baloney

Paul Kando

Some people are against solar energy, no matter what. And they don’t mind spreading baloney about it. Here is a small selection:

Organizations opposing Solar
photo credit: Huffington Green

Baloney #1: Solar system owners’ net energy billing increases the electric bills of non-solar ratepayers. — The PUC’s solar study valued solar-generated Maine electricity at 33¢/kWh, way above the retail price of conventionally generated power. Not surprisingly, Maine’s Public Advocate concluded that ratepayers would save $120 to 150 million over twenty years under a renewed net metering regime.

Baloney #2: Solar electricity is subsidized by Maine taxpayers. — Well, a subsidy is some sort of cash incentive in support a solar investment. There have never been state tax credits or rebates in support of solar energy in Maine. On the other hand, there is a 30% federal tax credit in effect through 2029, to encourage solar energy investments. If Maine undermines – by legislation or PUC ruling – existing or proposed net metering arrangements, causing people not to invest in solar, the loss of this federal benefit will hurt all Maine rate payers, not to mention Maine’s economy.

Baloney #3: Utilities stand to lose millions of dollars in revenues because solar energy producers don’t pay their fair share of utility infrastructure improvement costs. Thus they ‘shift’ these costs to non-solar rate payers. To unravel this claim, let’s suppose a few neighbors and I installed high energy consuming devices like electric kilns or hot tubs., This may strain the electrical grid at certain times, requiring the utility to upgrade grid components in order to supply the additional demand. The cost of that upgrade will only be partially borne by us through larger electric bills, because permanent grid improvements ultimately benefit all users. Thus the costs occasioned by our decisions will be shared by all ratepayers. In contrast, if we, instead, reduced our electrical load by replacing inefficient appliances and incandescent light bulbs with LED lights, our private decisions will reduce the need for an infrastructure upgrade and the utility’s costs. If properly accounted for, such cost savings can be passed on to ratepayers. Clearly, solar energy systems reduce, rather than increase demand, so they will reduce, rather than increase costs, for every ratepayer.

However, precisely accounting for cost shifts at the level of each individual account may not be so easy with current technology. The power my solar panels supply will flow first directly to my own uses and next to my nearest neighbors who need it. It may never “flow through” some central point of accounting. So, if a cost-effective means to credit and debit at such detailed level does not exist, the remedy is not to blame solar, but to develop and install local smart grids. This will also make possible the economical, integrated use of other local energy sources — wood pellets, reclaimed methane, wind, tidal power, and even the storage battery capacity of electric and hybrid vehicles,

And, I did not even mention the environmental and health cost savings of solar, compared to fossil fuel generated power.