Author Topic: Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice  (Read 4770 times)

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Offline bobsmithTopic starter

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Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
« on: November 17, 2016, 01:47:17 am »
Hello, would anyone be kind enough to weigh in on this.

If you haven't seen this video https://youtu.be/RnaBB7lTyjk published by Nation Geographic on Nov 4 it has direct reference to this amendment. David Letterman takes a trip to India on behalf of National Geographic for public awareness of India's aggressive solar energy initiative and in parallel there is a story about the current struggles of solar power in America. 

Last week on the Florida ballot voters were presented with the state constitution amendment titled Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice. The exact wording on the ballot is as follows:

BALLOT SUMMARY: This amendment establishes a right under Florida's constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.

This is it, no other information but two sentences. The first one seems unnecessary as a law passed in 2008 for net-metering already establishes the right for consumers to own or lease solar equipment. The second sentence also has superfluous references to governments ability to protect consumer rights, public health etc and the only significant detail I can glean is "consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do".

I've not been successful finding any specific details about this amendment on the internet. The only information is the two sentences provided in the ballot. The video published by The National Geographic implies there was a hidden agenda with this amendment and I have no way to verify this claim with only two sentences of information.

So who am I to trust?

My guess is NextEra Energy and other Florida energy providers attempted to prohibit solar companies from essentially running a power company through homeowners and the established grid. Solar companies are attempting to penetrate the energy market in Florida, it hasn't been done yet to any significant degree and I imagine they are concerned with the price point that will be most profitable. If they can lease solar cells and use the grid to sell back excess energy for a profit then there is no point in making solar affordable, they would make installation or material cost so high everyone would have to lease. However, if they were blocked from the grid then it would makes sense to lower prices on installation and cells and aim for higher sales.

Apparently profitability is so great an attempt was made to amend the state constitution and the National Geographic paid David Letterman to bring public awareness.  But what's the truth? Can anyone show me the hidden agenda? How can consumers make right choices that will benefit their pockets and the environment without being taken advantage of by either the current coal energy monopoly or private solar companies?



 

Offline djacobow

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Re: Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2016, 02:02:48 am »
"BALLOT SUMMARY: This amendment establishes a right under Florida's constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do."

This is one of those ballot measures that do the opposite of what they seem to do. It looks like it protects your right to install solar, but let me promise you: that is a right that nobody is attacking. It's the second clause that is most operative: "and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do." That language basically makes it illegal for the utility to allow solar customers to get benefit for the solar power in excess of its value, ie, a subsidy. In most analyses, net-metering, or paying solar customers the retail rate for the solar generation (as opposed to the wholesale rate) is, in effect, a subsidy. So the amendment becomes a cudgel for attacking net metering, which is the economic basis that makes the residential solar industry work. Without NEM, the economics of installing solar are not nearly as attractive, and the industry shrinks.)

So, if you like solar and want to see a lot of it, this is not the ballot measure for you. In fact, if you look at who supported and opposed the measure, it becomes pretty clear. Check it out here: https://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Solar_Energy_Subsidies_and_Personal_Solar_Use,_Amendment_1_(2016)

Just about every real solar advocacy organization (such as Vote Solar) and the whole solar industry was in opposition.

On the other hand, if you think, as does our new president, that subsidizing renewable energy is an unnecessary tax on everyone else, then you might have liked this.

I don't think, by the way, that it was about ownership vs leasing, per se. I think it was about rates, but worded carefully to hide that fact.

Anyway, it failed.

-- dave j

(I have worked in and around the solar industry for years.)
« Last Edit: November 17, 2016, 06:05:53 pm by djacobow »
 

Offline bobsmithTopic starter

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Re: Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2016, 03:28:40 am »
Thanks Dave J, I find all of this very confusing.

The issue of subsidy in this amendment was for the benefit of customers who do not wish to install solar, to protect them from rate increases the power company would potentially make in order to cover the expense of backup power and grid access from customers who do install solar. I don't interpret this as the utility attempting to make it illegal for solar customers to sell back power in excess of its value. And frankly solar customers shouldn't be allowed to receive higher compensation for their excess energy than it is worth.  According to FPL net-metering pays a variable annual average rate for excess energy which is lower than the retail rate.

Why would utilities attack net-metering? It's a win win situation, they pay average rates for power and the expense of solar installation and maintenance are covered by the customer. Also, why is net-metering the economic basis that makes residential solar industry work? The ability to eliminate my electric bill alone would be enough incentive to purchase solar, selling back is a bonus. And honestly, why would I pay for more solar cells than I need simply to sell power to the utility? The cost of cells are way more than what I would get from selling back.

It seems net-metering only benefits the solar industry if they can convince customers to install more cells than required to power their home. Forcing the utility to pay higher rates for excess energy so the solar industry can make higher profits is not fair in my opinion especially if non solar customers have to cover it.
 

Online gnavigator1007

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Re: Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2016, 04:17:44 am »
I live in Florida and the amendment was most certainly a deceptive ploy by the utility companies here to keep solar out of the so called "Sunshine State".  The group behind the amendment called themselves Consumers For Smart Solar  :-DD and were funded by mostly utility companies.  It was a real struggle getting word out. Luckily some of the papers picked up the story about a leaked audio recording of some James Madison Institute fat-cat bragging about deceiving otherwise pro-solar voters.  The campaign got me my first ever block on Twitter by consumers for smart solar  ;D

http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/after-leaked-recording-solar-amendment-campaign-scrubs-its-web-pages/2299563
 

Offline bobsmithTopic starter

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Re: Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2016, 11:21:28 am »
If this amendment was intended to block solar then it succeeded. Allow that to sink in for a moment.

Someone attempted to amend the state constitution granting the right to own or lease solar generation and protect non solar users form increased utility costs associated with providing grid access to solar users and Florida residents voted against it.

Cunning ruse indeed.
 

Online gnavigator1007

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Re: Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2016, 06:04:19 pm »
Florida already makes it near impossible to live off-grid. Most anyone installing solar is already connected to the grid. Seems that net metering leads to reduced income for utility companies rather than the grid itself magically becoming more expensive.  The real issue is the utilities attempting to recoup these losses from their non-solar customers.  Note they have a bit of a problem in that if they charge too much more, it will drive more people to solar.  They're hardly consumer advocates in this.  Amendment 1 was an attempt to lay groundwork for the utility companies to be able to penalise solar customers (that legally have to be connected to the power grid) for buying less grid power while at the same time not requiring utilities to buy back power produced from solar homes.  Essentially, another utility monopoly attempt to maintain control and profitability of an outdated system.  The promises of consumer protections were misleading as well because those protections already exist. Also, we can already legally own or lease solar installations in Florida.  No amendment necessary.  Only reason such language was used was to attempt to deceive voters.
 

Offline bobsmithTopic starter

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Re: Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2016, 07:44:41 pm »
I'm beginning to understand now thank you. Looking through the Florida state rule 25-6.065 Interconnection and Net Metering of Customer-Owned Renewable Generation, the law requires the utility to allow customers to reduce their energy consumption from owned or leased solar generation but it does not require the utility to buy excess energy from solar customers. That's an important fact.

What the state of Nevada allowed the utility to do was criminal and it seems their justification was the costs associated with buying excess power from solar customers. Someone posted a comment on The Guardian making a reasonable case.

"Just because Starbucks charges £2.30 for a cup of coffee that I could make at home for 30p, it does not entitle me to force Starbucks to buy my home-made coffee from me for £2.30. (But that is what solar net-metering expects)."

Fortunately this is not what the Florida net-metering law expects. So there lies the confusion, who is using the selling of excess energy as an ulterior motive?

As a homeowner, selling energy to the utility is a moot point. I live in North West Florida, during the winter I use about 94kWhr a month. During the summer it goes up to 844 kWhrs, an increase of 750kWhrs a month or 25kW a day. This is a normal figure for a 2 ton, 14 SEER 10.3 RLA unit running 10 hours a day (230V x 10.3A = 2369W). With the energy and fuel rates Gulf Power charges on 25kWhr it comes out to $2.83 a day or $85.90 a month more during the summer months.

It would require eighty three 300W PV solar panels just to power the AC during the daytime and that is in an ideal world where the sun is never behind clouds and remains stationary for 12 hours a day. I do not have the space for eighty three solar panels and honestly I wouldn't appreciate how the neighborhood would look was it even possible. From the amount of solar panels I could install there honestly wouldn't be enough excess energy to sell. Again, reducing my grid energy requirements is more important than selling excess energy and I don't believe it is the homeowner making an issue about it.

Ideally the government would make coal and gas so expensive the utility would find it more profitable to buy huge tracks of land for solar farms and all customers would benefit from lower energy costs.
 

Online gnavigator1007

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Re: Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2016, 09:30:12 pm »
Looking through the Florida state rule 25-6.065 Interconnection and Net Metering of Customer-Owned Renewable Generation, the law requires the utility to allow customers to reduce their energy consumption from owned or leased solar generation but it does not require the utility to buy excess energy from solar customers. That's an important fact

Did you read section 8 (f)?  I'm no lawyer, but this seems to indicate they are required to buy excess power (unused energy credits) in the extremely unlikely chance of someone generating that much more power than they consume.  I honestly can't imagine many solar owners getting a check at the end of the year :-DD

(e) During any billing cycle, excess customer-owned renewable generation delivered to
the investor-owned utility’s electric grid shall be credited to the customer’s energy consumption
for the next month’s billing cycle.
(f) Energy credits produced pursuant to subsection ( 8 )(e) shall accumulate and be used to
offset the customer’s energy usage in subsequent months for a period of not more than twelve
months. At the end of each calendar year, the investor-owned utility shall pay the customer for
any unused energy credits at an average annual rate based on the investor-owned utility’s COG-
1, as-available energy tariff.

So there lies the confusion, who is using the selling of excess energy as an ulterior motive?

Much of the issue is just a battle between 2 industries trying to protect/expand their profits.  I imagine anyone that had money for an advertisement for or against the amendment had an ulterior motive  I don't necessarily believe net-metering is a great solution and I definitely find 3rd party leasing a bad option.  My primary issues with amendment 1 were that it would likely have led to anyone with solar panels being penalized by the utility companies in addition to being intentionally misleading to voters that would like to support solar power.

 

Offline CCitizenTO

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Re: Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2017, 05:33:36 pm »
I believe this is to prevent something that's happening in the Province of Ontario. The Liberal Party in charge of the province signed a bunch of bad contracts and created this Feed-In-Tarrif (FIT) program which paid owners of solar installations ridiculously high values for their electricity something on the order of like 22 cents a KWh possibly more for early adopters of the program.

The price of 'normal' electricity is around 8-12c/KWh (varies since they charge more based on time of day because of smart meters). I also suspect that some of that price is them making us subsidize the early adopters who got premium rates under the FIT program.
 


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