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Arizona Commissioner Probes Utility's Secret Funding of Anti-Solar Campaign

Soulskill posted 1 year,20 days | from the wrong-way-to-fight-the-power dept.

Power 207

mdsolar writes "An Arizona utility commissioner is asking for all the key players in a debate over a solar energy policy in the state to reveal any additional secret funding of nonprofits or public relations campaigns. The probe comes after Arizona Public Service, the state's largest utility, admitted last week that it had been secretly contributing to outside nonprofits running negative ads against solar power. As The Huffington Post reported Friday, APS recently admitted that it had lied for months about paying the 60 Plus Association, a national conservative organization backed by the Koch brothers, to run ads against current solar net-metering policy. APS is currently pushing the Arizona Corporation Commission to roll back the policy, which allows homeowners and businesses with rooftop solar energy systems to make money by selling excess energy back to the grid. Solar proponents say that the policy has facilitated a solar boom in the state, and that changing it could have a huge negative impact on future growth."

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Its a shame. (5, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300387)

It is a shame that the solar debate is guided so heavily by politics. It is a shame that APS cannot have a public discussion regarding the negative side of solar projects without being bashed by politicians and a list of anti-everything groups that have no accountability. It is shame that APS feels the need to quietly support the dissemination of this information through indirect channels, and not be forthright about it when questioned.

A key red flag in the article is the question of using 'ratepayer money'. That is a political ploy meant to inflame. The rate base is negotiated between the PUC and the utility based on a range of factors including cost of operation, capital needs and others. It also includes profit for the utility. There should be no restrictions on how the utility uses that profit. It is funny that nobody complains about money sources when APS finances an efficiency campaign. Let’s be honest, the outrage is simply the fact that the drawbacks of solar are being promulgated. Would these same politicians be outraged if this money went to a pro-solar entity? A climate exists where large utilities or other entities must publicly profess that solar is always wonderful or otherwise get labeled as money hungry evildoers.

Facts are facts. Solar is clean, diverse, expensive and unreliable. There is a fit for it in the mix. There is also a point where it causes problems for the grid that will require significant waste or expense to alleviate. Growth must be managed properly to get the maximum benefit. In most cases, we could reduce environmental impact much more per dollar by investing in energy efficiency rather than solar. Unfortunately, that approach does not produce a visible "green" trophy. Installing solar thermal water heaters would yield much better financial and environmental returns than solar PV.

Most residential solar units are installed by wealthier Americans who are taking advantage of huge tax incentives. Essentially, we are paying for much of their energy cost via our tax dollars. I find it amazing that some of the same folks who complain about the very wealthy are so willing to give them money in this manner.

Solar has a place in our energy mix. Solar also has its drawbacks, and its OK to talk about them. Or is it an outrage?

Re:Its a shame. (5, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300465)

Political ploy? If they charge that they should pay it, or damn near it. A utility should have severe restrictions, you get those when you are a monopoly. I would prefer if the lines were owned by the state and the power provided by many providers.

It is fine to talk about them, it is not fine to fund FUD from far right wing groups.

Re:Its a shame. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300547)

What's interesting is that the Republicans here are showing their true colors, fighting against an independent populace when they want the populace to be heavily dependent on their corporate owners. Imagine the nerve of suggesting that people might not only live off the grid, they could invest their money in a means of production and then sell that product! Oh dear! If this continues, we might have unbridled capitalism, and where would Republicans be without corporate graft?

Re:Its a shame. (3)

khallow (566160) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300645)

Imagine the nerve of suggesting that people might not only live off the grid, they could invest their money in a means of production and then sell that product!

It's not a market. The purchaser is forced by law to buy the power.

Re:Its a shame. (5, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300733)

And you are forced by law to buy his power.

I cannot turn off the electricity to my home without having it condemned. I cannot select another provider. I cannot buy power upfront for a lower cost.

There is simply no real market activity for anyone in this arrangement.

Re:Its a shame. (3, Insightful)

Skapare (16644) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300813)

And, the utility is forced to buy the power from it's customers at the same rate they sell power to them ... which means they cannot recover distribution costs or make at least some profit. Electric distribution utilities need to be able to buy the power at a lower price than they sell it.

Re:Its a shame. (5, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301297)

Then charge a distribution fee. The should buy and sell power at the same rate and only charge for infrastructure use.

Utilities as they are monopolies the law forces me to buy from should not be for profit.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301401)

Then charge a distribution fee.

You haven't looked at your electric bill, have you? Here in PA, where we have electric choice, you can choose your electricity provider to get the best rate, BUT your electric company still charges you for distributing that power.

Those costs usually represent almost half your total bill.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301509)

I have, and I fail to see how this is not a solution to the problem at hand.

I assumed AZ did not have such a fee if this was an issue for them.

Re:Its a shame. (2)

NoImNotNineVolt (832851) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301683)

And the individual is forced to buy the power from the utility at the same rate they sell power to them ... which means they cannot recover distribution costs or make at least some profit. Individuals need to be able to buy the power at a lower price than they sell it.

Why is it that utilities "need to be able to" profit, but not individuals?

Re:Its a shame. (1)

khallow (566160) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300991)

And you are forced by law to buy his power.

Not at all. You can always live off the grid.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301281)

Then the city will condemn my house.

I must have water and electric connection as well as some form of heat in the winter.

Re:Its a shame. (2)

khallow (566160) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301377)

It sounds like you may have agreed to limit your choices by living where you do.

Re:Its a shame. (3, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301513)

This isn't a natural limit, it's one imposed by the law. Saying "Well, you can just move somewhere else" is never a justification for shitty laws.

Re:Its a shame. (4, Insightful)

cusco (717999) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301285)

Depends on local zoning. In some areas homes that are not connected to the power grid are considered 'uninhabitable', no matter how absurd that might be. That includes homes that are empty because the owners may be working overseas or who only occupy a vacation place a few months out of a year. My grandparents couldn't turn the electricity off to their house in Florida, even after they had definitively moved back to Michigan when she got sick, because they would not have been able to sell an 'uninhabitable' home for a fair market price.

Re:Its a shame. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45301073)

Stop paying your electricity bill.
I guarantee you won't be connected to the grid for very long.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

fche (36607) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300653)

"they could invest their money in a means of production and then sell that product"

If that product were sold at voluntary market rates, and its means of production were not grossly subsidized, all the more power to them. (Neither would be true around here in the great white up.)

Re:Its a shame. (5, Insightful)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300685)

Imagine the nerve of suggesting that people might not only live off the grid, they could invest their money in a means of production and then sell that product!

In other words, people with excess solar capacity are small-business owners.

To be fair, Republicans fully support small-business owners, unless they interfere with big business, or Conservative moral/social agendas, or a politician's chances of getting re-elected, or those people have anything to do with minorities, women, reproductive rights, sexual orientation ... Wait, what was I talking about again?

Re:Its a shame. (5, Insightful)

CaptainLard (1902452) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300529)

The problem here is "APS recently admitted that it had _lied for months_ about paying the 60 Plus Association". Things may have been different if they'd just come out with their side of the story on why solar is bad. The way they went about it is indeed an outrage.

Re:Its a shame. (2)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300765)

Things may have been different if they'd just come out with their side of the story on why solar is bad.

Utilizing Solar energy may have issues, but I'd be hard pressed to describe it as "bad" - unless you're a fossil-fuel company. Perhaps, I'm misinformed, but all I can imagine is Mr. Mackey [urbandictionary.com] from South Park saying, "Solar energy is bad, m'kay."

Re:Its a shame. (1)

Skapare (16644) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300867)

I'm all for using solar power. BUT ... This needs to be done in a sane way. The electrical distribution network is NOT designed for taking power from customers that were expected to buy it, at a volume greater than some small percentage, measured separately in various branches of the distribution. This is especially so for small single phase branches. And it needs to accommodate paying for the maintenance of the distribution network with at least some profit for the company running it. The latter problem can be corrected with smart meters that calculate incoming vs. outgoing power separately so the outgoing (to the electrical network) can be paid at reduced rate (though not as low paid to the grid since on a small scale it is only using the local network to deliver power to others).

Re:Its a shame. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300559)

Using shills to push your agenda is not having a public discussion. If the folks at this company had wanted to participate OPENLY in the debate, that would be one thing. Instead they chose to use fronts to get away from the public eye.

That invalidates their participation, as they are not honest, but instead deceitful. They can't be trusted now, nor can any of the claims made by their agents.

We probably need to treat them like Enron, so that others learn a lesson from this. Be forthright.

Re:Its a shame. (-1)

khallow (566160) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300679)

Using shills to push your agenda is not having a public discussion.

Looks like one to me. Shilling has long been a feature of public discussion.

That invalidates their participation, as they are not honest, but instead deceitful.

And if they were "open" rather than deceitful, then their participation would be invalidated on different grounds. When you're forced to wear the black hat, you have no grounds on which to have valid public discussion.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301827)

Sorry, no. If you can't stand up and own up to your convictions, you should rethink your position. That has always been the case.

Re:Its a shame. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300657)

Wealthy Americans? That's a bit relative ... it's mostly the middle class benefiting.

If residential solar creates too unreliable a mix then APS can simply stop building their own solar plants BTW.

Re:Its a shame. (2)

couchslug (175151) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300757)

"It is shame that APS feels the need to quietly support the dissemination of this information through indirect channels, and not be forthright about it when questioned."

Pity the unfortunate wealthy businesses who feel the need to Astroturf, and pity the poor Slashdotters who confuse the need for debate with the need for Astroturfing.

(weeps)

Re:Its a shame. (3)

baffled (1034554) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300779)

Facts are facts. Solar is clean, diverse, expensive and unreliable.

Expensive? Get your facts straight.

http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/capitalcost/ [eia.gov]
Check out Table 1 from this report we paid for. Assuming the guys we paid to assemble the report did their jobs well, it shows capital costs and operational costs on-par or better than most forms of energy except natural gas.

Re:Its a shame. (0)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300859)

Are you making the common mistake of not including the cost of replacement generation to backup the solar and the costs of managing that generation profile?

Re:Its a shame. (1)

baffled (1034554) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301241)

If we're going to play that game, then don't forget backup generation for the coal/gas plants. The electrical grid has its uses. Also, apparently that table doesn't include fuel costs, strangely enough.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301603)

Yeah, those numbers are really hard to use to make a point because it is not clear exactly how they handle all those surrounding parameters. Are they generator lead costs or breaker costs? Are they average, best case, or worst case? Solar PV cost/MW varies widely by location, with higher costs at higher latitudes due to reduced effective solar exposure time. Fossil & nuclear costs a bit more in warmer latitudes due to cycle efficiency loss. Solar is clearly trending down in cost, that can be readily understood.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

cusco (717999) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301815)

Are you making the even more common mistake of not including the environmental/health/disposal costs for the non-solar generation profile?

Re:Its a shame. (1, Informative)

abhisri (960175) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300787)

Clever arguments... a bit too clever.

I think folks in the energy/power sector are just worried about things turning out the way they did in Germany.

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/13/08/20/2140215/germany-produces-record-breaking-51-terawatt-hours-of-solar-energy-in-one-month [slashdot.org]

Well... until and unless you actually want to argue that Germans are better at this stuff than Americans. But I doubt that so I will wait for some more clever explanation and excuses why the Germany story was a one-off and Sun is closer to the sun and/or sun is a communist.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

abhisri (960175) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300797)

Correction ...Sun is closer to Germany and/or sun is a communist.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45301319)

Correction ...Sun is closer to Germany and/or sun is a communist.

And now you know the real reason for German reunification. To get that commie Sun from East Germany!

Re: Its a shame. (1)

Alex Cane (3296683) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301643)

Why is the Soviet Sun always smiling in the morning? Because by evening it will be in the West.

Re:Its a shame. (3, Informative)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300881)

The trick is not just producing a lot of power. The trick doing is doing it consistently, at low cost, and when you need it.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

cusco (717999) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301639)

That's Arizona. The sun is probably more consistent there than pretty much anywhere else on the continent. The need for electricity peaks during the daylight hours, when air conditioning usage is high. So yeah, they're doing it right.

Re:Its a shame. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300825)

Solar has a place in our energy mix. Solar also has its drawbacks, and its OK to talk about them. Or is it an outrage?

Solar's best spot is peak market or off-grid. There should only be 2 policies

  1. solar sells at spot price
  2. solar and other non-CO2 producing power sources (hydro, wind, nuclear, "bio gas" etc.) get preference over carbon sources w.r.t. long term contract pricing vs. spot price.

So if spot price goes below long term gas/coal/oil plant contracts, then non-CO2 take priority and there is a swap in pricing - CO2 gets lower spot price and non-CO2 get long-term-contract pricing with option to reduce output to 0 on the swapped out portion of the contract.

Then we have a policy without favouritisms and self-interest. No short sighted "net metering", but a possibility of nil daytime CO2 emission - that would be a huge accomplishment in itself.

Re:Its a shame. (3, Interesting)

Khyber (864651) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300873)

"Facts are facts. Solar is clean, diverse, expensive and unreliable"

You're absolutely wrong on the last two. The fucking sun rises and falls every day, that's goddamned reliable. Solar panels are so cheap that I could power my entire house (not including Air Conditioning) for $0.60/w or LOWER.

"There is also a point where it causes problems for the grid that will require significant waste or expense to alleviate."

What the hell are you talking about? Oh, you mean lower base loads? Guess what? To prevent the inrush of power, THE OWNER OF THE PANELS can install a very simple box to simply not give power back to the grid to avoid overloading it. The cost for this solution is about $5. What waste? All that solar we're not collecting and utilizing already? Give me a break.

You don't know what the hell you're talking about, and half of your words are weasel words.

~Lighting research director

Re:Its a shame. (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300947)

Actually, that you mentioned inrush as having anything to do with this debate proves to me you do not know what you are talking about.

Go and make up a bill of material for a solid, working, code compliant solar PV solution for your home, or get a quote on one that does not discount financial incentives, so we have a true cost, and then come back with a real argument.

I am surprised that you have not already installed such a cheap solution. What are you waiting for?

Re:Its a shame. (2)

number17 (952777) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301707)

get a quote on one that does not discount financial incentives

When asking for such a request you should also provide your own quote for non-subsidized fossil fuel without subsidies. My source for Ontario says residential pricing would increase 35%:
http://www.cleanairalliance.org/files/active/0/taxshift.pdf [cleanairalliance.org]

The total dollar value of Table 1’s four remaining taxpayer financed subsidies for grid-supplied electricity is $4.785 billion per year. If these subsidies were to be immediately eliminated, electricity rates would rise by approximately 35%.

Re:Its a shame. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45301099)

"Facts are facts. Solar is clean, diverse, expensive and unreliable"

You're absolutely wrong on the last two. The fucking sun rises and falls every day, that's goddamned reliable. Solar panels are so cheap that I could power my entire house (not including Air Conditioning) for $0.60/w or LOWER.

Please compute how many square meters of solar cells it would take to support US electrical use. Assume 40% efficiency (wildly optimistic), 1000W incident solar radiation per square meter (also wildly optimistic), 12 hours of direct sun per day (also wildly optimistic), then compare that to how many square meters the US *actually covers.* Interesting exercise: reduce those numbers to likely engineering numbers of 20% efficiency, 600W incident solar radiation per square meter, and 6-8 hours of direct sun per day for an average of 200-250 days per year.

From that perspective, "expensive" is a perfectly apt term for solar.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300949)

I love how you say it's the wealthier Americans. Have you driven thru the Indian Reservations on the way to Four Corners in Arizona? Tell me how many wealthy Americans have solar PV on their mobile home as you drive by. Almost every single one of them. Why pay APS, when I can invest a small bit now, and pay nothing forever? And why are there tax incentives? Ohh yeah, so we don't depend on big oil, remember? Nuclear? NIMBY, right? Global warming? By all means, let's fire up another natural gas power plant from frack'd gas. So in 10 years after that cheap gas is gone, now what? How many tax incentives does APS receive? PV isn't dependable? Really? Sun doesn't come up on your side of the planet? How much longer are you going to be driving a gas powered car? 5 years, 10 years, 15 years? What are you gonna charge it with? I've never seen anyone argue in favor how much they like paying for utilities. Nor how much they love paying for gasoline at the pump. Support the grid? I am supporting the grid, so company shills like you that don't use solar PV doesn't make APS build another plant and pass the savings to all of us. I'd rather not have APS fire up another reactor or build another plant based on growth. What APS is more worried about, and they should, is all the new houses that come with solar PV built in. Have you seen them on Sun Valley Parkway? This is all about APS not getting 100% of their perceived money, based on house count. What if every house had solar? Ohh shit! Imagine if you were charged for what you used, and were given credit for what you put back. Ohh wait, we are.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301121)

The debate also has to encompass the cost of maintaining the transmission line infrastructure. Solar isn't this magic talisman that's going to furnish everyone's energy needs. Industrial energy needs are usually significantly higher than that of a house. What opponents of net-metering are worried about is the eventual death spiral where APS won't be able to afford to maintain the infrastructure. The question is: who sets the rates for energy purchase? Does the Corporation Commission decide what APS is going to pay homeowners or is it a true commodity? If it's the former, then the net outflow might exceed what they are able to charge non-generating customers plus the cost of maintaining the network.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

Old97 (1341297) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301131)

Yes, the use of the term "ratepayer money" is prejudicial and inflammatory as well as misleading. That's pretty typical with Slashdot and almost every other source on the internet. However, the primary objection expressed is that APS lied. I, and others, object that APS, Exxon, Koch brothers and others astroturf their positions, i.e. they set up phoney "citizen" organizations and sites to push their views so people will not be aware of their financial interests in the debate's outcome. That's dishonest and does not contribute to honest open discussion and debate or to science. It's O.K. to promote a position that you benefit from - whether its financial or biological (like health), but it's not O.K. to use deceit to hide your motivations. What they are afraid of, I think, is that people will more closely examine their scientific methods and conclusions if they know you have a vested interest in a particular outcome.

Just to be preemptive, advocates on any side of any position can have a vested interest in a particular outcome. We should always be skeptical.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301171)

Let's be honest, the outrage is simply the fact that the drawbacks of solar are being promulgated.

That is not honest. My displeasure with this is that they are funding intentional misrepresentation of solar. If the objective of 60 Plus were a more informed electorate, I would have no problem with it. It is not. Their approach is to distort perception in favor of a given viewpoint, because they know that is more cost effective than developing objectively informed skepticism. The problem is the propaganda, not the information.

Would these same politicians be outraged if this money went to a pro-solar entity?

I think you don't live in Arizona. We don't have a whole lot of political appointees with left-wing axes to grind. Ones that do don't have very long careers 'round these parts. What we do have is a lot of cranky old folks who don't like corruption.

In most cases, we could reduce environmental impact much more per dollar by investing in energy efficiency rather than solar.

You say that as though we should be spending money there instead of solar. That is a false dichotomy. We already do invest in efficiency programs; Energy Star, insulation programs, CFL and now LED stimulus, and many more. Solar is another path to future energy solutions. Funding only efficiency would be as stupid as your false implication that we are only funding solar.

Most residential solar units are installed by wealthier Americans who are taking advantage of huge tax incentives.

Solar installs are expensive, and the only way to get close to cost effective is to do a large scale install. Most of the taxpayer subsidized installs are going in on schools, libraries, and other public facilities, not rich people's houses. It's even happening right here in El Mirage, a heavily blue collar area.

Residential installs are happening here as well, though they are more common in wealthier neighborhoods. That is not because the rich are being targetted with huge tax incentives -- the tax incentives involved are a small portion of the total install cost. It is because the up-front cost of a solar install that is large enough to make sense is enormous. Economies of scale, not targeting of the rich, is what dictates that the people most able to foot the majority of the bill (with a small boost from tax incentives) to get us over the startup hurdles are the wealthy.

Or, more succinctly: You are a shill. Bugger off.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301503)

the tax incentives involved are a small portion of the total install cost.

Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) = 30% of total cost. No small portion by any means.

Re:Its a shame. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45301247)

It is shame that APS feels the need to quietly support the dissemination of this information through indirect channels, and not be forthright about it when questioned.

Is this seriously an issue? Just because no one ever talks about how solar cells only produce power during the day isn't some conspiracy, and whatever other challenges it faces I'm sure are being considered by engineers and investors alike. It sounds like you want to justify dissemination of information with FUD tactics because "[anti-solar] can't be discussed without being bashed by anti-everything groups".

Re:Its a shame. (1)

jd.schmidt (919212) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301649)

It is an outrage, and possibly a crime.

Utilities are monopolies and thus government regulated. Because everyone must purchase services from the utility, they have very stringent ethics rules of necessity. And trust me, if they HAD been contributing to liberal causes, politicians, especially conservative ones, would have been beside themselves with outrage.

As for solar power itself, power utilities donâ(TM)t like them because they reduce utility profits, period. There is no real science behind their dislike. As for the specifics of the propaganda against solar power, maybe it was accurate, maybe not I suppose we would have to see it first. But if money is being sent secretly and lied about, on the face of it I am unsure how much I would trust such information.

Re:Its a shame. (1)

NoImNotNineVolt (832851) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301655)

I find it amazing that some of the same folks who complain about the very wealthy are so willing to give them money in this manner.

I'm always on here lambasting the ultra-rich, but this is just disingenuous. While it's true that you won't see poor people putting solar panels on their house (mainly because they don't have a house), you don't have to be "very wealthy" by any reasonable person's measure to afford a PV installation. My parents have panels on their house, and they immigrated to this country with no money and no English, didn't have any higher education, worked clerical and truck driving jobs, and didn't win the lottery. They're nowhere near upper middle class, let alone "very wealthy" by American standards.

Arizona Public Service is misnamed. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300423)

That's just the name of a subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, not an actual Public Utility concern.

Re:Arizona Public Service is misnamed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300487)

APS really stands for Arizona Perjury Service: we'll lie about anything, just ask us!

But, But ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300513)

" ... and that changing it could have a huge negative impact on future growth."

But all these "renewable energy fools" are having a negative impact on APS's ability to enforce their monopoly and control the future of energy in the state.

Won't someone think of the utilities?

Re:But, But ... (0)

Skapare (16644) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300915)

I do. The can't make a profit when buying power at the same rate as selling it. AND they can't maintain the electrical distribution network without any difference in those rates. Sure, it's a big corporation that wants a monopoly and control of the prices. But the "buy customer's solar production" concept needs to involve selling power to the utility at a rate that allows for distribution and maintenance costs to be covered with at least a reasonable profit from that.

Solar energy? In Arizona? (5, Insightful)

themushroom (197365) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300517)

Yeah, let's run a smear campaign against not only one of the cleanest forms of energy available, but the source most plentiful and free in that particular state. A utility should be getting onboard, not trying to harpoon something that could benefit them.

Re:Solar energy? In Arizona? (1)

rickb928 (945187) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300637)

"most plentiful and free in that particular state"

Except, perhaps, at night. See, there is one of the problems; Solar make sense when it;s available, but not when it isn't. Arizona is blessed with largely cloudless days, but the nights include half the peak demand, and so some other sources are needed alongside solar.

And yes, this did seem like a troll right up the point where you are encouraged to look back at the solar claims; clean, available. Either of these have debatable points.

Not that I care much for APS or SRP, as a customer of both I'd rather see them play fair, but no one is playing fair in this. NO ONE.

Re:Solar energy? In Arizona? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300737)

Nobody is saying Arizona should go 100% solar power, but solar reaches peak power output during midday, which is also the same time of day Arizona has peak power usage due to air conditioning.

In addition, you are forgetting about solar-thermal plants, which do provide some residual power output after the sun sets.

Re: Solar energy? In Arizona? (1)

rickb928 (945187) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301449)

Midday is not the only peak demand.

Re:Solar energy? In Arizona? (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300743)

Solar thermal can run at night just fine.

If night is half the demand of the daytime then you could have half your power via solar voltaics.

Re:Solar energy? In Arizona? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300857)

Oh, great! So let's go with a documented dirty energy source then, right?
Notice that you are commenting on an article about fuck-stupid lobbying against something good.

Re:Solar energy? In Arizona? (1)

PPH (736903) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300973)

Except, perhaps, at night.

And this is a problem with the buyback programs: The utility is expected to bear the cost of storing off peak power.

The solution might be to separate energy and system infrastructure costs. And then assess a power storage charge against the solar installations (that don't have batteries plus smart grid coordination) for the power that they deliver when it can't be used.

Solar energy could then incorporate intermediaries [wikipedia.org] who could buy, store and sell energy on the grid to match demand.

Re:Solar energy? In Arizona? (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301371)

There are tons of clean ways to do solar energy in a place like Arizona that provide power in off peak times, you don't have to be anywhere near as efficient when you're in a desert.

The most obvious, even to a layman, is steam. Is this so hard to understand that you'd rather burn oil and coal.

*sigh*... Humanity...

Re:Solar energy? In Arizona? (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301483)

"most plentiful and free in that particular state"

Except, perhaps, at night. See, there is one of the problems; Solar make sense when it;s available, but not when it isn't. Arizona is blessed with largely cloudless days, but the nights include half the peak demand, and so some other sources are needed alongside solar.

And yes, this did seem like a troll right up the point where you are encouraged to look back at the solar claims; clean, available. Either of these have debatable points.

Not that I care much for APS or SRP, as a customer of both I'd rather see them play fair, but no one is playing fair in this. NO ONE.

I am so very tired of the lame old oil-sucker counter to solar power.

I don't get my electricity from an oil company, I get it from an electric company. My local utility has the ability to generate power from about 4 different sources, depending on which ones are most economical at the time.

If Arizona wants to get its some or all of its peak-demand (daytime) power from solar and revert to hamster-powered treadmills when the sun isn't available, what of it? If they can build smaller fossil-fuel plants or buy power from the interstate grid, fine. They can import it from Philadelphia. I hear it's always sunny there.

Re:Solar energy? In Arizona? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45301653)

Except, perhaps, at night. See, there is one of the problems; Solar make sense when it;s available, but not when it isn't.

You can't be serious, can you? You never heard of storing energy in batteries?

"Except, perhaps, at night" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45301681)

I use solar power at night. I have this marvelous invention called a "battery". You may have heard of them....

Obama Lied, you insurance died (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300525)

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/10/31/senate-democrats-supported-rule-that-lead-to-insurance-cancellations/

"Washington (CNN) - Senate Democrats voted unanimously three years ago to support the Obamacare rule that is largely responsible for some of the health insurance cancellation letters that are going out.

In September 2010, Senate Republicans brought a resolution to the floor to block implementation of the grandfather rule, warning that it would result in canceled policies and violate President Barack Obama’s promise that people could keep their insurance if they liked it."

Democrats vote to cancel your policies that Obama said you could keep, and the Republicans tried to stop them.

Oh but around here Republicans want to murder little babies and eat them.

Fuck all you drone socialist fuckwits sideways.

How about we eliminate... (2)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300563)

...all government funding and promotion for "green energy"? Especially since it seems to be almost entirely an exercise in crony capitalism and kickbacks for campaign donors.

Government shouldn't be picking winners and losers in energy.

Re:How about we eliminate... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300647)

Fair enough, let's also withdraw all US military support from the Mid-East, all US protections for coal and oil production, as well as environmental immunities, let's stop eminent domain being used to allow the construction of pipelines and seaports used for fossil fuel production, and let's allow every individual to properly file suit against any corporation that has endangered them by the pollution of the Earth. Or heck, let's just stop protecting them from trespassing, vandalism and assault.

Oh wait, you don't want to go for a real and true anarchy, but want to keep drawing your own arbitrary lines, conveniently protecting those you like, while excluding those you don't.

Good-bye moral high ground.

Sorry, but the government has long protected "non-green energy" and if you are going to insist on preventing crony capitalism and kickbacks, and don't want to pick winners and losers, you're going to have to make a real commitment to it, not a phony sham one that ignores the vast amount of protections and services received by the fossil fuel industry.

Re:How about we eliminate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300773)

I'm not the person you were replying to, but I agree with him. And you, too. Just because the government should stop doing many other things as well doesn't make his comment wrong.

Re:How about we eliminate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300861)

His comment is a phony sham one unless he can make the full commitment to the principles expressed in it.

It's the integrity, or lack thereof, that makes it right or wrong.

Re:How about we eliminate... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45301105)

They don't pick winners and losers, they only pick losers and prevent winners.

Re:How about we eliminate... (1)

number17 (952777) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301777)

Government shouldn't be picking winners and losers in energy.

Are you being paid-off? Why stop at only 20% of the kickbacks?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_subsidies [wikipedia.org]

The global fossil fuel subsidies were $523 billion and renewable energy subsidies $88 billion in 2011.

Energy buybacks have their problems (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300571)

Forcing utility companies to buy back energy will eventually bankrupt any electricity company. It forces all of the expenses of running their entire grid on a smaller and smaller pool of paying customers. Those customers would be businesses and the "renting" poor, and those unlucky enough not to be able to install solar. However, the electric grid as we know it should eventually become obsolete, as alternative energies such as solar take over. It will just be a complicated period of adjustment.

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (1)

i kan reed (749298) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300629)

Not that I strictly disagree, but your whole post is a bare assertion of a future narrative, without any sort of substantiation.

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (2)

CaptainLard (1902452) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300635)

Perhaps. If current trends continue, that may be a real problem for utility monopolies in 50 years or so. In the mean time the load shed of residential solar is doing a small part to help utilities avoid shelling out $billions for new power plants.

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (1)

rickb928 (945187) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300667)

Eventually, perhaps, these net generators need to reconsider selling their excess at all, but banking it instead. Supercapacitors, better batteries, even underground pneumatic makes as much sense as selling to the utility and then buying it back in the evenings at a markup. At least, if solar installations make sense at all, then maximizing it makes sense in most cases.

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300741)

The development of practical and cost effective local/distributed storage technology would greatly enhance the profile for solar and wind generated electricity. It would also enable the development of a truly "smart" grid. Thus far, those technologies fall short on cost and efficiency. We need to keep working on them.

That is not net metering (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301579)

Net metering gets settled up annually in most places. In Arizona, excess generation is compensated at the avoided cost rate, however much getting that free electricity reduced costs for the utility. This can be less than the market wholesale rate. A supercapacitor or anything else does not help with what to do with an annual excess. It might make the grid irrelevant though.

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300689)

Regulated monopolies will not go 'bankrupt'. As cheaper and cleaner sources of electricity are added to the grid, older and dirtier sources can be retired. Rates will be adjusted. Those that are 'lucky enough' to purchase solar panels are paying up front for a long term benefit. Those 'unlucky' subscribers are getting cheaper and cleaner energy over time without having to change a thing. Even if the rates go up, the difference is actually the true cost of electricity as coal had huge externalized pollution costs we will be paying for years to clean up.

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300705)

Only forcing them to buy it back at rate can ever do that. But they need to be forced to buy it back at a significant percentage of rate or it's bullshit

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45301101)

Only forcing them to buy it back at rate can ever do that. But they need to be forced to buy it back at a significant percentage of rate or it's bullshit

Utility should never be forced to buy back, per say. But there should be laws on the books that solar and other non-CO2 sources get priority over CO2 sources.

So if spot is higher price than long term contract price (LTCP) of coal plant A and LTCP of gas plant B, then solar gets spot. When spot falls below A's but not B's LTCP, then solar gets to "swap" the price of contracted price with lower spot. Utility will get spot until spot rises above its LTCP or solar falls out of the mix.

That way solar gets maximum price that is currently being sold to the grid, in preference to CO2 emitters.

So if there is a coal plant selling at $50/MWH and spot is $45 and there is a MW of solar available, then the coal plant can either idle, or sell at $45 - essentially giving solar $5/MWH subsidy.

Not perfect, but I think more fair than net-consumption.

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300755)

The simple solution is to uncouple maintenance and power costs. Let the state own and maintain the grid while many providers including individuals with panels provide power.

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (1)

PPH (736903) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300891)

This is what will happen. But keep this in mind: A significant portion of your per/kWh charge is actually covering utilities fixed costs. It differs between regions, but I live in the Pacific Northwest and energy/fuel costs are a very small portion of my utilities operating costs.

Now imagine a rate structure where I pay for my fixed costs separately from my energy costs. The energy portion would drop to near zero and my motivation to conserve it would do so as well. Fixed costs would depend on my peak consumption, which would motivate time of use metering as well as peak shifting (aka. a smart grid). Implementing this isn't cheap. My utility is partway there with remote metering. But their IT infrastructure is basically garbage and they failed as an investor owned utility. So raising capital is a show-stopper for them.

In some ways, a utility operates like a bank, shifting one type of resource (lots of variable small loads, maintenance expenses, fuel costs, etc.) for block power purchasing deals and raising capital at fixed costs. Mandating a change in the way they structure their business is going to produce some winners and losers (my local power co being on the losing side). And much like banking, people will not put up with the system shutting down. So there will be a bailout. And guess who will pay for that.

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (2)

Ichijo (607641) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301111)

Now imagine a rate structure where I pay for my fixed costs separately from my energy costs. The energy portion would drop to near zero and my motivation to conserve it would do so as well.

If the costs of all negative externalities were included in the rates, then you would voluntarily conserve without any social engineering.

Correcting market failures is always good for the economy, despite what those who oppose carbon taxes would have you believe.

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300929)

Yes, lets repeat the energy deregulation that California did. That worked out great for everyone didn't it?

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301025)

Yep, it's essentially the same conflict of interest as allowing cable & telco companies to maintain infrastructure and provide content.

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45300783)

Perhaps heavily regulated but necessary utilities should be publicly owned then so they don't have to worry about profits or even eventual extinction?

What's more important to you? That you have reasonably clean and efficient electricity available or that some company is making profits? Because if history is any indication you aren't going to get both.

Re:Energy buybacks have their problems (3, Informative)

slashmydots (2189826) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300827)

That's not exactly how it works. First of all, the industrial grade inverter to supply energy back to the grid cleanly is about $2000 on the low end. Secondly, practically nobody has an array big enough to have a net gain where they actually get a check from the electric company. Maybe their electric bill went from $200 to $100 but to go -$100 is pretty unheard of. Third, the buyback rate is structured so that even if the company turned their power plant completely off because 10,000 private solar array owners were sufficient to power the entire local grid, they'd be paying out about what it would cost to run the power plant. In other words, there's still a profit built in.

Seriously? (1)

Dega704 (1454673) | 1 year,20 days | (#45300931)

I suppose I'm not too surprised, but wow. All that is missing is a mustache twirling villain rubbing his hands together as he chuckles maniacally.

No surprise where the trail goes (4, Informative)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301011)

The Tea baggin' Koch Bros... [motherjones.com]

"The utility, the Arizona Public Service Company (APS), outed itself as a funder of two secretive nonprofits fueling the anti-solar fightâ"and revealed that it had funneled its anti-solar money through a political operative associated with the Koch brothers and their donor network."

Re:No surprise where the trail goes (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301055)

That family is starting to look like a bad Satan parody. What next, secretly funding child slavery rings for hamster wheel electrical generators?

What a shocker (1)

buttfuckinpimpnugget (662332) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301125)

A government granted monopoly trying to keep it's power? How is that even possible?

Net-Metering doesn't make money... (5, Insightful)

rahvin112 (446269) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301235)

Net-Metering doesn't make money for the property owner. The Net of the front of that means that at the end of the year if you generate excess power (vs what you used when the sun didn't shine) the balance is wiped to zero and the utility doesn't pay you a cent.

What this means is that solar panels generate power during peak usage when commercial power rates are the highest, the home owner typically buys power at night when rates are the lowest. The net-metering means the meter spins backwards during the day. If at the end of the year the meter is less than when the year started the balance is zeroed and they start over. If it's positive the homeowner cuts a check for the amount.

The debate is that as solar power use grows the people using with zero bills aren't paying any maintenance dollars to support upkeep of the grid. Right now power rates combine generation and grid maintenance costs in one per/kw number.

The counterpoint is that the number of people at zero is INCREDIBLY small because any excess capacity is handed to the power utility for nothing.

The reality is that as the number of people at or near zero increases, the system needs to adjust to separate power costs and grid maintenance. The solution the utility wants, is to end net-metering, the solution that should be implemented is a fixed line minimum grid maintenance fee (either monthly or yearly). It should be noted that the utility is mostly opposed to this because it would mean they would have to actually disclose what grid maintenance costs and what power costs. And of course the astro-turfed opposition is funded by the two largest private owners of hydrocarbon based energy in the US.

Re:Net-Metering doesn't make money... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#45301637)

Why does everyone here think they aren't paying for the distribution equipment? Have you looked at your electric bill? Half your bill is static charges that do not change even if you use 0kw a month.

Mod this up (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301845)

Utilities already have connection fees. Should they not just get the accounting right?

Depends on the State (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301725)

In Arizona the compensation is at the avoided cost rate, in Maryland it is confiscated, for example.

Arizona Net Metering Policy (5, Informative)

mdsolar (1045926) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301259)

The Arizona net metering policy is already very protective of utilities' interests. http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=AZ24R&re=1&ee=0 [dsireusa.org]

System size can't be larger that 125% of a customer's normal use and customer/generators only get paid at the avoided cost rate, not the retail rate for power generated beyond their annual use.

In New Mexico, First Solar is selling power at 5.79 cents a kilowatt-hour http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-01/first-solar-may-sell-cheapest-solar-power-less-than-coal.html [bloomberg.com] so it seems hard to believe that this campaign is anything but a way for the Koch brothers to shake down APS.

similar campaign against wind power in Idaho (3, Informative)

slickrockpete (868056) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301331)

There's a similar campaign against wind power in general going on in Idaho. I've only really seen billboards with vague questions associating wind power projects so corruption and insider deals, but it is pretty obviously a political campaign to stir up ill will in the voting public.

As if the utilities never made any corrupt or insider deals.

The way public utilities were originally set up was intended to deal with a regulated structural monopoly and keep a fair balance between ratepayers and the "owners" of the infrastructure. Since laissez-faire capitalism has been the fashion for the last 30 years the utility commisions have been packed with insiders and had any regulatory teeth taken away. Thank you Saint Ronnie of Alzheim.

Net Metering (1)

Cow007 (735705) | 1 year,20 days | (#45301597)

My comment is regarding net metering in general not specifically as it applies to solar. This is a bigger issue; it's not just with solar that net metering comes into play. I know someone who has a factory and a hydroelectric plant. He sells the energy to the electric company and buys it back at a very small markup. "If you make extra power the electric company is bound by law to buy it." I see no reason to change this; its simply common sense and it applies to more than just solar. These rules have been around for longer than solar was a thing for private citizens and everyone wins. Use of smart meters is especially helpful in these scenarios since the grid is aware when extra power is being generated as well as when it's needed.
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