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On Will PG&E Be the First Utility To Fall To Solar Energy?

PG&E will not be the first, and in fact no utiliity will fail this century because of solar. This meme has been getting traction, but beyond poor brand relationships, why we collectively believe that solar panels will somehow put our electric system into a tailspin is beyond me.

Utilities are regulated entitiies. Long ago we made a trade of monopoly rights for supervision and public benefits of electric service. 

Does solar change things? Sure. Just like EE does. And prepay (which has huge conservation effects). But, really we're going to put utilities out of business? Come on. And the first to go is going to be a progressive utility in a de-coupled market?

A more plausible outcome? First, Solar and EVs are the force that will upend the baseline system in many utilties. It's gone far enough. We all pay the same rate for gasoline, and the same will soon be true for electricity. As Doug mentions, rates are not costs; and rates, not costs are driving most solar investments. Watch out for that to change. Second, we're going to see some adjustment to pure volumetric rates. Despite solar advocates shouting, there are small costs to solar, and regulators are going to have to admit that. Finally, utilties are not dumb. They are backing the financial funds on solar, and re-thinking deregulation. I don't think PG&E will do this, but look for some of them to re-examine whether they are better off just being a T&D utility with a nice regulated rate of return.

May 5, 2013    View Comment    

On Energy management: if you’re not winning, you’re losing

In short the restaurant goes out of business. This is the worry of the so called "death spiral" where energy efficiency and distributed generation conspire to remove rate payers, escalate prices and increase energy efficiency and distributed generation even more. We're still a long way from that, and the example above is VERY extreme, but its an interesting thought to see at what point you don't have an incentive to do energy efficiency if you collude with everyone else. Of course, the incentive to cheat and get subsidies from your competitiors is..irresistible?

September 18, 2012    View Comment