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Posted: July 3, 2013 at 1:15 pm   /   by

If you’re following the “Great Solar Debate,” you’ve probably heard a lot about TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed).  At first glance, they seem like a reasonable, free-market supporting group who wants to promote renewable energy in Arizona.  But after a little digging, that narrative falls apart.

TUSK is bankrolled by SunRun and SolarCity, California solar companies who, like Solyndra, depend on corporate welfare to make a profit.  They want YOU to subsidize their wealthy solar customers.  You see, when a utility customer with solar panels creates more energy than they use, the utility company reimburses them.  That sounds fair – until you find out the company is required to pay them five times the fair market value for their power.  Not only that, but customers with solar power need integration, distribution, and more from utilities.  When they don’t pay for those services and take five times the fair rate from a utility, it raises energy rates for everyone else.  Why should you have to subsidize your neighbors’ solar power?

It’s estimated that the average rooftop solar system in Arizona will add $20,000 in costs for other customers. Just because media-stuntman Jason Rose and You’re-Only-Listening-To-Me-Because-My-Name-Is-Barry-Goldwater-Jr. say it’s fair, it doesn’t make it so.  If we want solar to be sustainable in the long term, we need real, customer-focused net metering reform based on free market principles.  It’s not about utilities versus solar, or non-solar versus solar, it’s about basic fairness.

The Hot Spot

The Hot Spot

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The Hot Spot


  1. dleeper47 says:

    Your wrote: “[T]he company is required to pay them five times the fair market value for their power.”
    Huh?  What?  I have a SolarCity system, and if I have any excess kWh at the end of the year, they pay me the wholesale value of those kilowatt-hours, which as I recall is abut half the retail rate I pay.  Where do you get the “five times fair market value” information??  I want to apply for it!!
    Is solar really only for the wealthy?  Unless they’ve changed, SolarCity will lease a system for no money down, and buyers start saving on electricity costs from Day 1.  And those savings are likely to grow as electricity rates “skyrocket” (to use an Obama term).  
    And what are these “integration, distribution, and more” services from my utility (APS).  I don’t know what that is.  Tell me more.  I’m an electrical engineer, and I can understand your explanation (if you have one).
    Solar systems help reduce peak demand on APS, and that helps them postpone new investment in generation and transmission systems.  Doesn’t that help all ratepayers?
    When I see someone use “fairness” as an incantation, I immediately suspect I’m hearing from a fan of Big Government statist control.  Is that you?  If so, don’t you care about Global Warming?  Doesn’t solar power help solve that problem?

    1. rmnelson316 says:

      @dleeper47 APS generates power at a plant, sends it over transmission lines to a substation where it is distributed to customers. So, the three phases of electricity production are generation, transmission and distribution. When I generate my own power I do not get charged for transmission or distribution since I don’t use them. However, when i generate more than I use, APS gets to charge my neighbors for both of those services that they do not provide (plus market rate for my electricity that they paid wholesale for). That is the dirty little secret that nobody talks about. The other thing is their power plants are aging and the solar customers take load off of the plants… especially during peak season. I can see both sides of the argument since I work for them.

      1. dleeper47 says:

        @rmnelson316 Good info.  Thanks, rmnelson!
        Now I understand that when my next-door neighbor consumes some of the power I generated with my system, I understand they pay retail per-kWh rates *and* some sort of charge for “transmission and distribution”.  Is it a significant charge compared to the kWh charge?
        Since they’re right next door, and doubtless are on the same transformer I am, do they pay the full freight for transmission & distribution or a reduced rate?  The latter would be so complex that I could understand APS using a flat trans. & dist. rate for huge swaths of their customers.  I can hear their argument that says: hey, that solar kWh looks like any other kWh we send to your neighbor, so they pay the price they would if it came over many miles.
        I guess the only way to avoid the charge is for my neighbor to run an extension cord to my house, as we once asked if he could do(!).

  2. Liverwurst says:

    David – I don’t know much about the current solar rebate system in Arizona or what consumers are paid by APS or any other utility, but I do know a lot about these companies out of state companies pushing solar in Arizona. I’m not trying to defend or oppose this article, don’t get me wrong, but I do know that the companies pushing these systems in Arizona are huge benefactors of giveaways from the Obama Administration and were huge bundlers for his 2008 and 2012 election campaigns. But perhaps that’s a different argument for a different day…

    1. dleeper47 says:

      @Liverwurst Thanks, Liverwurst … knowing what I know of the Obama administration, there isn’t much that would surprise me.  Can you give me a reference about the Obama giveaways?  I’d like to know more about how big they were and what form they came in (and maybe still do?).  Same for the bundling …

      1. Liverwurst says:

        @dleeper47 This was just a quick search result for “Obama” + “solar city”, and now my interest is peaked and I’ll do some more research after the holiday, but check this out:

        1. dleeper47 says:

          @Liverwurst Thanks … I’d heard of Musk but didn’t connect him with SolarCity.  This surely does look like crony capitalism. I infer from the article that SolarCity got a direct cash subsidy(?), not even a loan guarantee (which is bad enough).  And I know the AZ taxpayers & rate-payers provided subsidies in the early days when I joined up … 
          Bummer.  They surely did put up an excellent solar system on my house.  Trouble-free for four years, and I haven’t paid a dime for peak-hour electrical usage in about 2 years.  Cash flow positive from Day 1.  Wouldn’t it be nice if Obamacare worked that well?
          I guess for a change I’m on the receiving end of at least one of these crony deals(?).  Solar Citystill seems to be installing systems out here in AZ as fast as they can.  I hope they’re standing on their own now or soon … I’d hate to lose this sytem.

  3. rmnelson316 says:

    This is complete misinformation!! When I generate more than I use, I put it on the transformer next door for my neighbors to buy. Not only does the utility pay me LESS than market rate (not more as you state) but they charge my neighbors market rate, transmission and distribution of the power that I generated. This is a great deal for the utility. Get your facts straight before you try to whip up anger against those of us that bought solar systems. The terms were in place and the utility signed a contract with me so don’t hate me for following the rules.