Solar Industry Alarmed By Net Metering Bill Supported By Utility Mail

They should eat the losses, not make the consumer pay for bad judgement.

Instead of bailing out over-priced power plants, they should be shut down and replaced with renewable energy resources-such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal plants-along with a new commitment to energy efficiency, the cheapest, cleanest way to "produce" electricity.

Bailing out power plants that would otherwise have to be shut down will stifle competition. New or smaller companies will not be able to compete against giant utilities receiving billions of dollars in taxpayer and consumer subsidies.

The utility bailout also endangers the environment. The most un-economic power plants are often the most polluting-spewing millions of tons of toxic pollution and greenhouse gases into the air and leaving a legacy of nuclear wastes that will remain deadly for thousands of years.

Utilities receiving a bailout will fight against renewable energy, which directly competes with the existing fleet of polluting fossil fuel and nuclear power plants.

A grassroots backlash against the bailout is already starting to build in California, Massachusetts and other states. Public Citizen's founder Ralph Nader, along with leading consumer groups, recently launched a campaign called Californians against Utility Taxes (CUT) to oppose the utility bailout in the Golden State. For more information and a free CUT Action Kit, see access.

In Massachusetts, Public Citizen and allied organizations are working with sympathetic lawmakers to heed the concerns of consumers to drastically limit the utility bailout. Similar efforts are underway in Pennsylvania, Texas, and other states.

The question is, do we as consumers want to bail out the utilities for their bad investments in dirty power plants? Or, do we want to stop throwing good money after bad, shut down these power plants and invest in clean, renewable technologies and energy efficiency? To Public Citizen and our allies, the answer is clear: "Stop the Bailout!"

It Gets Worse

An especially onerous aspect of the CTC has become clear to me. Initially, my reaction to the bailout was to accept it as a necessary evil. I assumed that at least the nukes would be shut down. That assumption was dashed when I spoke with Harvey Wasserman at Solfest last June. Harvey was a featured speaker at the conference and author of Inherit the Wind—Will Clean Energy Pass Us By? which appeared in the June 16,

1997 issue of The Nation. He expressed the conclusion that the CTC will extend the operation of the nukes by making their high priced power competitive. Dan Berman author of Who Owns the Sun? states, "If Congress goes with the California model and bails out the nukes, you'll see American renewables set back a decade at least." From this perspective, restructuring could be disastrous for renewables. Rather than promoting competition as is supposed to be the case, restructuring will help the utilities reposition themselves in the marketplace while maintaining renewables at a competitive disadvantage. This is how I see the "big picture".

The demand for baseload power (provided by nukes and big fuel powered plants) has been flattening (the rate of increase is decreasing) for a decade. At the same time cogeneration (on site produced thermal and electric power) has made significant inroads. For utilities, cogeneration has been the real competition and the trend has been understood for some time. During this period wind, solar thermal (the LUZ plant as an example) and PV technology continue development and renewables begin to be competitive; offgrid they already are. Cogeneration and renewables now are referred to as Distributed Generation. DG represents the next big market for generation and energy technology while at the same time baseload power as a bulk commodity represents a declining and less lucrative market. From the utility perspective, they need to enter the growing and potentially lucrative DG market. Now here comes the "genius of restructuring".

Utility strategists propose that power generation become "competitive". Actually, generation is already well on its way to being competitive. Under restructuring however, the less competitive baseload plants are propped up with subsidies, continue operating, and the utilities artificially maintain a lower price for power. This hurts their competitors-especially renewables. Meanwhile the utilities are recapitalized by way of the CTC (bailout). Now, well positioned and with cash in their pocket, they enter the DG market. If this scenario is not insulting enough, consider the fact that utilities wish to enter the DG market as regulated monopolies, though there is clearly no monopoly franchise here. (For more on DG see IPP #59 or send for the CPUC-ORA-IPP (there are a total of 10 signing parties) position letter on utility DG).

IPP wants competition. Real competition could happen if the bailouts were halted and the regulated utilities were prohibited from doing DG. Restructuring as it is presently being implemented constitutes a government (read-"taxpayer") bailout and subsidy to major regulated corporations as they reposition themselves advantageously to enter unregulated markets. Heck of a deal! Maintaining the present course of restructuring may indeed set US renewables back another decade. I feel we are already behind a decade.

A wealth of information about utility activity is available through the free news clip service offered by Cybertech. (see access) Just reading the headlines make it clear what the trends are. Not a day goes by without mention of numerous buyouts and mergers, New utility business activities like security services, telecommunication services, DSM energy management consultation, and residential electrical repair appear daily. As a sample, here are some clips from 8/15/97.

Metricom And KN Energy Expand Ricochet Wireless Networks To Include Nearly Two Dozen Mid-Western Towns

Metricom, Inc., and KN Energy, Inc., today announced expansion of the Ricochet wireless network to ten towns in America's heartland, with plans to deploy in an additional twelve targeted rural areas, covering more than 200,000 residents.

Virginia Power Gets Approval To Enter Telecom Market

Virginia Power has received the green light to enter the telecommunications market next month, joining its neighbor, Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO) in the wave of utility companies entering the telco business.

New Jersey Telecom Plans Partnership With Electric Utility

A New Jersey telecommunications company and an electric power utility will team up soon to offer phone, Internet and cable services to customers in Washington, D.C. RCN, a division of C-Tech Corp. of Princeton, has agreed to work with the Potomac Electric Power Co. to provide a package of services to the 682,000 households the utility serves in Washington and its Maryland suburbs. (see access for Cybertech sign up)

The California PV Alliance (CALPVA) met in June. Among the participants were representatives of the California Energy Commission, CALSEIA, IPP, Enron, BP, Atlantis Energy, SMUD, SCE and Sierra Pacific. A large part of the meeting was devoted to work on the PV component of the California restructuring plan to be administered by the CEC. The details are not final, but it looks like around $30 million will be allocated to a program that includes buy downs, financing, and customer education (advertising) to be targeted at residential and commercial applications of PV.

Another project of the Alliance is to see that a simplified net metering interconnection standard is adopted in

California. Tom Starrs, renewables policy consultant, commented on the possibility that unfair interconnection standards adopted by utilities could constitute exclusionary practice (see his comments in IPP #60) and require court action as in the case of the Telcos some years back. The Alliance endorsed the concept of a simplified national interconnection standard and unanimously supported a CPUC protest in progress.

Some time ago, I chronicled the events surrounding the efforts of Dave Morgan in Central California to obtain net metering from his utility, Pacific Gas and Electric. Well over a year ago, Dave was ordered to remove his PV system from the grid or suffer loss of service. The Morgan system had been approved by the local building inspector, complied with all sections of NEC 690 (the section of the electric code that covers PV systems) and used UL components throughout. This heavy handed attitude on the part of the utility did not go well with Dave and he filed a protest. Presently he is appealing the initial unfavorable CPUC ruling and is committed to a full formal protest before the Commission if necessary. He will be supported by the Alliance in this matter.

Maine Net Metering Alert!

IPP member Bill Lord sent a disturbing memo outlining how recent Maine restructuring legislation may undo the State's existing net metering law. He referred to the "sinister forces lurking in the restructuring morass". Bill maintains a beautiful web page (see access) from which one can download the Maine Solar Energy Association article titled, "Maine Net Metering Law Trashed". Check it out. Maine readers please pitch in.

NY Net Metering Bill Signed

RE Ellison writes that NY Governor George Pataki signed legislation to allow net metering for up to 30,000 New York homeowners with PV installations up to 10 KW. Like the California law, it applies to PV only, not to wind or residential microhydro installations. Pataki said the law would encourage the use of clean energy in New York without "unduly burdening utilities". Half a loaf, but far better than nothing. Congratulations to all the IPP members in NY who helped pass this bill.

A Bad Joke Turns Real

During a moment of dark humor not long ago, Cynthia and I were making up horror stories regarding restructuring and the "transition charge". At one point we fantasized folks disconnecting from the grid and installing PV instead of utility service. Cynthia said, "in that case the utilities would try to charge you for disconnecting and not using their power". We both chuckled uneasily. Last June Southern California Edison Company initiated a move that tries to do exactly that. The filing titled CTC-DL (Competitive

Transition Charge- Departing Load) proposes that a fee be levied against any power consumption reduction. Thus customers who initiate efficiency measures, install a solar water heater or PV could be charged the CTC for power that they don't use. SCE argued that, based on fairness to other customers, departing load should also be charged its share of the CTC. A strong protest authored by CALSEIA's Les Nelson and cosigned by IPP, Pacific Energy Group and Foresight Energy Company was filed with the CPUC. Because of wording in the California restructuring law that protects residential customers from this kind of charge, Edison had to back down. However, commercial customers may still be subject to the CTC-DL charges! Bill Lord was certainly right about the sinister forces lurking in the restructuring morass!

Next Issue

Besides the latest on restructuring and issues involving renewable energy, interconnection policies, we'll look at some marketing issues/opportunities as some large non-utility players enter the PV end user market. Look for and use the IPP logo. IPP businesses offer service and knowledge in addition to competitive pricing on hardware. Membership is now over 160 and we plan to grow even more. Members, look for some exciting news we'll be getting to you this Fall.

Access

Don Loweburg, IPP, PO Box 231, North Fork, CA 93643 Phone: 209 841 7001 E-mail: [email protected]

Public Citizen: http://www.citizen.org

Cybertech: [email protected] (include the word "signup" in subject field)

CUT Information and Action Kit, Harvey Rosenfield, 310-392-0522, 1750 Ocean Park Blvd#200, Santa Monica, CA 90405 • Web: www.consumerwatchdog.org

Bill Lord's web page:

http://solstice.crest.org/renewables/wlord ||)y

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Solar Panel Basics

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