Los Angeles Business Journal

Utilities Turn Up Heat on Solar Rooftops

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

In a letter dated June 28, Deon M. Hall, the review manager of Edison’s consumer affairs department, wrote that design changes in certain solar equipment do not allow “the energy from the renewable and nonrenewable resources to be separately metered.” The implication is that customers would buy electricity during less expensive times then sell it back to the utility for a profit.

And here is what a regulatory rubber stamp looks like. On July 3, Paul Harris, on behalf of the CPUC consumer affairs branch, referred to Edison’s June 28 letter, then wrote to a customer with a solar energy-and-battery-backup system: “Per Southern California Edison, the issue is with a battery pack that renews itself via Edison’s grid, which would allow that energy to export back to the grid, which would cause you to receive inappropriate credit.”

‘New evidence’

Harris stated that the case was closed, unless Edison’s customers provided “new evidence.” The company has yet to provide any evidence that the equipment in question does what Edison says it does.

The state’s regulators parroted a theory circulated without proof by a major utility – funny thing for a “public” utility commission to do.

When monopolies control a marketplace, competition, progress and people suffer. A company has a monopoly when it can treat its customers badly, knowing those customers will find it difficult or impossible to obtain that company’s goods or services elsewhere.

Large utilities spend huge amounts of capital on generators, transmission lines and the other machinery needed to deliver electricity across often-great distances. A solar power system delivers the same product starting with a few panels on the top of one roof.

California is a leader in renewable energy and the state will not benefit from attempts to turn back the clock.

In support of an energy-producing model that better protects the environment, I helped start Backup – Better Action by Citizens for Kilowatts of Uninterruptible Power. Our website and first major action – a campaign to contact elected and other public officials – is in the planning stages.

Matthew Sperling, a self-employed writer and investor, was born in Los Angeles.

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