Thursday, December 29, 2011

When will solar pay for the grid?

Right now whenever someone connects a rooftop solar installation in most of the country they get to sell electricity back to the grid at retail price. This means that if you send as much energy into the grid as you take out than you pay nothing for electricity.

There is just one problem with this though. The utility pays something. The utility still must pay for all of the wires which connect to your home, all of the power plants which will run on cloudy days and so on. The value of the solar they get from the rooftop does not nearly equal these expenses. So utilities lose big when people install solar. While solar is rare this doesn't matter. The utility has guaranteed profit from the state and can just raise rates on everyone else to subsidize these people.

At some point someone will cry foul though. The relatively rich people who can install solar cells are making the rest of the people pay for their electrical infrastructure. I am starting to see signs that this will happen soon. San Diego Gas and Electric is trying to change that in California right now. If they fail, than a few years from now it is almost certain to happen.

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