Rowley: Solar DG homes add value to grid, environment and community - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

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Rowley: Solar DG homes add value to grid, environment and community

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Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 1:45 pm

On Sunday 21, the CEO of APS, Don Brandt, made a statement about Distributed Generation (DG) customers costing APS 25 cents kWHr. This is not exactly how it happens in the real world. That statement is greatly stretching the real situation.

We are talking about Distributed Generation (DG) also known as roof-top residential solar electric systems. We are not talking about commercial solar farms or Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) systems. Those commercial systems, owned mostly by out-of-state companies, have 20-year contracts to receive incentive money from APS. The DG roof-top residential solar electric systems do not have the same incentive contracts and are not compensated for every kWHr generated in the same way as the commercial systems.

In the past, centralized power and single sets of power lines provided by utility companies were a necessary evil, an accepted monopoly and the public allowed it. Now with Solar Electric Power coming of age, that is not necessary, not appropriate, and the monopoly should not be allowed to continue.

The actual situation in my case is as follows: Last year I generated approximately 14,000 kWHr and 3000 kWHr of that was more than I needed for my home. I gave that power to the utility company. At the end if the utility company’s fiscal year they reimbursed me 28 cents/kWHr, the Dow Jones Palo Verde rate, approximately $84. At the same time I did not use any net power from the utility company and I paid them $222.48 to be connected to their utility grid. That money was for support and maintenance of the public utility grid, meter reading fees, and taxes (for not using any power?).

Solar electric power is generated during the high cost daytime hours and are exchanged back at low cost off-peak times and rates. So, DG customers are giving power to the utility company for free when they are selling it to the DG’s neighbor for full on-peak values. If the on-peak cost per kWHr is 24 cents and the off-peak costs are .06 cents per kWHr then the utility company actually makes 18 cents per kWHr off of the DG customer, which is not costing APS the 25 cents per kWHr as quoted by Brandt.

The only time any money is actually exchanged to the DG customer is in the initial installation of the system and that is presently at only 10 cents per watt. Therefore, a 5kW system only receives a one-time payment of $500. After that initial incentive no other money is given to DG roof-top solar electric customers.

The power lines are crossing public land and are public domain. APS may own the power plants but the lines and lands that the power is transmitted across are our lands and not theirs.

APS says they can’t keep up with that much solar electric power. APS has approximately 1 million customers; SRP also has approximately 1 million customers. There are 18,000 solar electric systems currently functioning in Arizona. That is 0.9 percent. They are required by the Renewable Energy Standard (REST) to reach 15 percent by the year 2025. At this rate they will not meet that requirement.

APS says that they need a Smart Grid to handle that much solar electric power. APS and SRP already have a smart grid. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t want them to be our power company. We want someone that is responsible and up to date with available technology when they take our money in exchange for power.

All the maintenance, repairs and upkeep of the DG customers’ systems is paid by the DG customer, not APS. APS does not pay anything for those repairs. That is zero maintenance cost by APS.

DG roof-top solar makes the utility grid more robust during outages and disasters, performs better (DG generates 1850 kWhr/kW versus 1600 kWHr/kW for APS owned solar power farms), is quicker to install (months instead of years), reduces the need for APS to buy expensive power off the market at high costs and are not subject to transmission line losses. That sounds like a benefit to everyone, including APS, so why are they fighting this? The only way I see it is for retaining their monopoly, more money and higher profit.

Solar DG homes add value to our grid, our environment and our community and should be allowed to continue with the present net metering program.

• Keith Rowley is president of Solar Electric Systems & Products, Inc. in Mesa.

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