“Mailbag” offers some insight into comments I get from readers — good, bad or in-between — and my thoughts about their feedback.
The big California question: How much, and for how long, should property owners be financially incentivized to put solar power on their rooftops?
In allegedly the “greenest” of states, the California Public Utilities Commission may as soon as Jan. 27 dramatically dial back financial perks for those considering home power generation, pruning the amount and length of savings offered to current solar panel owners.
My column raising all sorts of questions about the CPUC plan — which is supported by the state’s three, giant private industry utilities — got all sorts of replies from readers.
Some see little value in paying more for energy so a neighbor can eventually get a financial return on their investment in an electricity-generating roof. They note solar owners tend to be from a wealthier demographic and can afford higher energy bills.
Then there are others who, like me, have solar rooftop systems. They wonder why the CPUC’s thinking doesn’t significantly value the $15,000 or so invested in a typical solar system — or the 7% of energy produced statewide by these mini-power plants. That upfront cost gets solar owners cheaper energy costs and helps to keep the grid running smoothly. Not to mention, aiding the state’s aggressive clean-energy goals.
The mailbag was so chock full of divergent opinions, I will conduct a debate of sorts on the benefits of these solar subsidies by simply using reader replies from both sides of this argument.
Anti-subsidies: “Pay for your own solar, parasite.”
Pro-subsidy: “It’s a huge lie that the rich are robbing from the poor. No one, including the poor, paid a cent toward our rooftop solar. After the utility companies shut down rooftop solar, they will build solar farms, and guess who will pay for that? Yes, everyone including the poor.”
Anti-subsidies: “The more well-to-do residents who own solar production get an average benefit you calculate to be $129 a month. It seems to me that this demographic needs to come to terms with the declining need for subsidies. There certainly is no reason to force payment of a premium for this power. Purchased at market rates, charges for power might go down, a benefit for the not-well-to-do demographic.”
Pro-subsidy: “What happens if these same 1.2 million solar customers all decide to wait until the next statewide heatwave and turn off our solar from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m.? If the CPUC doesn’t appreciate the time, cost and risk we have undertaken, we must not be very important.”
Anti-subsidies: “If everyone took advantage of this, then the utilities would either go broke or have to jack up the nighttime rates to the point that it would basically negate the subsidy anyway.”
Pro-subsidy: “It seems that utilities are trying to figure out a way to charge for the sun as if they own it. We need to encourage more rooftop solar systems, not discourage them, in order to help protect our environment and provide for a more sustainable energy future.”
Anti-subsidies: “Solar subsidies create an aura of need and success for those minions of progressive socialistic ideology. A designed education system that denies truth from pre-school to failed liberal colleges allows dozens of failed socially engineered fantasies to drain our hard-earned tax dollars.”
Pro-subsidy: “The state told all of us – for your wallet, for the grid and the planet – reduce your power use, shift it from midday, use renewable power and buy a hybrid or electric car. Many of us have done that with major positive results.”
Anti-subsidies: “The cost isn’t the point but rather being green is, correct? If so, then the cost to break even should be a non-factor to environmentally conscious.”
Pro-subsidy: “Environmentally conscious people can be cost-conscious.”
Anti-subsidies: Utilities “should remove costs from their system and our taxing/legislative entities should stop adding costs in the guise of social benefits.”
Pro-subsidy: “The blindness of officials to not see that the subsidies we receive are only because we invested many dollars to put a system on our homes, is a mystery.”
Pro-subsidy: “Worry more about keeping the lights on than appeasing the power companies.”
Anti-subsidies: Look at electric vehicles. “Gasoline taxes are used to maintain our roads. EVs get a free ride here. Personal disclosure, I own a Tesla 3. So if we are going to maintain our roads, we need to figure out how to fund this.” (Note: California charges EV drivers an extra $100 a year for auto registration for this reason.)
Pro-subsidy: “If homeowners with solar get charged enough, then it will make it advantageous for them to buy batteries and totally disconnect from the utilities. Imagine what will happen to the utilities’ income then.”
Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Orange County Register