Los Angeles Business Journal

Utilities Turn Up Heat on Solar Rooftops

OP-ED By Matthew Sperling Monday, September 9, 2013

A war against progress is being waged by some of this country’s largest companies. The battle is over our civilization’s most essential service: electricity.

California is a leading battleground, as evidenced by the top story in the Los Angeles Business Journal’s Aug. 12 edition (“Solar Feels Heat From State Fee”). Reporter Howard Fine writes that California’s three biggest utilities are pushing for a fee of $5 to $10 to be added to customers’ monthly electric bills.

Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and San Diego Gas and Electric claim the fee will “offset the loss of revenue from customers who switch to solar power.”

This attempt to stick their hands in the public’s pocket is part of a nationwide effort by large electric utilities. A July 26 New York Times story (“On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities”) begins: “For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops. Now, in almost panicked tones, they are fighting hard to slow the spread.”

I am among the utility customers who have been collateral damage in the power companies’ war against solar power. In April, Sun Pacific Solar in Santa Barbara installed our solar energy system and backup batteries. The city inspector declared our system was one of the nicest he’d ever seen.

The installer went to Edison to have us connected to the electrical grid. After at least a decade of allowing systems like ours to be connected, this time Edison said no. We would not be welcome to provide power to the grid and to be assured of power during a blackout.

Our $21,000 system – the cost after incentives and tax breaks – has been off line for four months. Power is in greatest demand during the summer, but we are not allowed to sell our excess energy to Edison under the state’s net energy metering program. I have been told that many other power-generating systems in various stages of completion have been knocked for a loop by Edison’s actions.

The California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission have mostly disappeared into the bureaucratic woodwork. The president of the CPUC, Michael R. Peevey, was also president of Edison for three years, strengthening any claims that he has a conflict of interest.

The state’s largest utilities have agreed not to connect any solar systems with backup batteries and might revisit systems that have already been connected. What is the rather dead, smelly red herring they have tossed in the water and declared to be a terrifying shark chomping away at their profits?

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