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"solar tax" and the way to make things equitable


T-W-X's Avatar
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07-17-13, 07:58 AM   #1  
"solar tax" and the way to make things equitable

I live in Arizona, and it was recently announced that one of the big utility companies, Arizona Public Service, is considering an extra charge to solar customers to the tune of $50-$100 per month, essentially claiming that solar customers don't pay their fair share of grid maintenance and delivery costs. Mind you, I think this argument is stupid when the utility companies only pay back solar-generating customers the absolute lowest kWh rate for their power even during peak times of day when the utility itself is charging four times that much to other customers. Regardless though, charging solar customers something extra is stupid and short-sighted as it will only serve to make it harder to get more solar adoption.

My solution is simple. Decouple electrical grid delivery from power generation in the utility bills of ALL customers. As it stands right now, it is possible to be an APS customer in an APS-served neighborhood for the grid-tie, but to purchase generating capacity from Salt River Project, the other major utility in the region. One pays APS for being tied to the portion of the grid that they maintain, but doesn't pay APS per kWh of power consumed, instead one pays SRP, and since their grids are essentially one grid, power generated going into the grid would just be supplied more from SRP than from APS.

So, decoupling the grid connection from power generation allows the local grid connector to receive the revenue for local grid maintenance that they need regardless of if the house is a net producer or net consumer of energy. It would also have the consequence of better informing power customers that they could choose to buy their power from a different supplier than the one that their grid connection is from.

 
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Northern Mike's Avatar
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07-17-13, 08:32 AM   #2  
I looked into going solar/wind. For the cost of the equipment, I'd probably opt to spend the extra few dollars and completely remove myself from the grid. Heck, I'd have a block party the day that line was cut off the house.

I'm not sure about most areas, but locally, the utility systems (water, power, etc) are all getting old and we'll end up paying the raising costs to upgrade and maintain.
When I lived in town, after a few years of "Conserve the water" campaigns, they had to raise the cost of city water because there wasn't enough revenue to maintain the systems after we started conserving. So in the end, we paid for new equipment and sacrificed to save money, only to pay money for less.

 
T-W-X's Avatar
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07-17-13, 04:45 PM   #3  
Yeah, I believe that it's wrong to punish those that reduce their dependency on the utility when the utility's infrastructure is problematic, hence my desire to decouple the hookup cost from the usage cost.

I've debated the pros and cons of attempting to go solar or off-grid, problem is that I have too much to realistically go off-grid. Three air conditioners and two hot water heaters draw a lot of energy if they all run at the same time. I also live in a climate where energy storage and overnight demand is high enough with the need for the air conditioners to where I can't go off-grid without substantial overnight battery capacity.

I just think it's short-sighted to penalize local production that supplies the grid. We've had problems with brownouts here in the height of the summer before, and at the moment the power companies have to keep fairly expensive demand-load power generating stations on hot-standby to meet the power draw needs during the hottest part of the day. Since the hottest part of the day also corresponds with some of the best conditions under which to generate solar power, this seems like a no-brainer to me, have as much residential solar production as possible for the peak demand, and be able to run base-load power 24/7.

 
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07-17-13, 05:26 PM   #4  
It is a can of worms. That grid we refer to is expensive, especially way up north where mother nature can tear down power lines faster than the they can be repaired. As you ponder going off grid or supplementing to some level, remember you are not alone. The way solar prices are dropping while performance is increasing it is only a matter of time until every home has some form of solar power. Then, who pays for the grid? Maybe property taxes?? They are going to get us one way or another.

Bud

 
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07-18-13, 04:27 AM   #5  
It is a can of worms. That grid we refer to is expensive, especially way up north where mother nature can tear down power lines faster than the they can be repaired. As you ponder going off grid or supplementing to some level, remember you are not alone. The way solar prices are dropping while performance is increasing it is only a matter of time until every home has some form of solar power. Then, who pays for the grid? Maybe property taxes?? They are going to get us one way or another.

Bud
I can see that being partially true. Would be fairly unlikely to see many in the larger towns and cities go solar (I'm sure by-laws in some towns will prevent everyone from going solar). I believe Toronto (Ontario Canada) has a by-law along these lines. Remember reading something about it a few years ago.
I've been loosely looking at going off grid since I moved into this house a year and a half ago. Our power consumption is a lot less then most (even with it's size) as it was originally built when there was no power. It would however require some major rework of the retrofit wiring. As it stands right now, using a transfer switch with my genny is tough because stuff isn't cleanly broken up. It's all new and to code (or at least code a few years ago), but just not clean enough to be able to calc total power consumption with specifc services.

There are a couple houses around my place that are completely off grid (no lines from the poles). One (~1000sqft if I had to guess) is running one sun chasing solar pannel and a small windmill. Haven't asked how life is off the grid.

 
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07-18-13, 07:55 AM   #6  
With the new energy codes being forced into our construction industry, every new home will be using a lot less power. As they expand those codes to all renovations we will soon (10 t0 20 years) see a population of homes that can be easily go off grid. Add in the advancements in solar over those 10 to 20 years.

From some of the off-grid solutions I have read, add in a good standby generator and some batteries and many homes will be cutting the umbilical cord and eliminating their electric bills. Make that generator into a dual function CHP (combiner heat and power) and it gets even better.

But the time will come when the power companies will scream that they can no longer support the grid and someone will have to pay.

Bud

 
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07-18-13, 08:31 AM   #7  
I've been seeing the opposite here in new construction. Everything is geared towards 200A service or bigger. Haven't heard anything coming down the pipe in the way of building codes to reduce, but then again, I don't work in that industry.
My current house is running 100A service, and have had no power issues. Will someday check to see what I'm drawing when time permits. Would be nice to see how much we required to run this house.

as for the duel function genny's... I had seen some limited production genny/heater units being used over in europe (believe one company is in Holand). We have a pretty big alternate energy following within the company I work for. A lot of "out in left field" ideas out there. Some we can use in our designs, some are no where near useful.
I'll try to find the one specific design that was discussed here. If I remember correctly, it was a rotary engine by design.

 
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07-18-13, 09:10 PM   #8  
I expect that one of the biggest hurdles in widespread solar off-grid adoption, even in places that are ideally suited to it, will be the issue of maintenance. I do telecom work for a living and we have battery rooms and huge inverters and uninterruptible power supplies and power conditioners and all of them require periodic maintenance or replacement, and even we don't do what we should. The contractors for the phone system do a good job of their part, dealing with the 200-some-odd UPSes and 10 battery rooms and large inverters, but they're still regularly changing batteries for even a relatively low-power application, basically the same power as a few computers could draw in the bigger sites with the inverters. With enough batteries and inverters for up to 200A service I could see this being a fairly big problem, and right now the consumer is not acquainted with this sort of thing and probably doesn't want to become acquainted with it either.

I could handle it, I am lucky to have an air-conditioned utility room that isn't accessed from a door inside the house, so I have somewhere that I could put batteries and an inverter that I'd neither have to worry about heat problems nor have to worry about listening to a noisy inverter, but I'm certainly not in the majority on that.

I think that it's a shame that solar isn't a requirement on newer homes. If the cost to install is part of the initial construction and thus part of the mortgage it's a lot easier to get people to do it compared to having to then get a separate loan for solar or to have to lease or pay a lot of up-front cash.

 
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