By Tom Rhodes, 5/29/2013
This is a tale of how being green puts a disproportionate burden on the poor and those on fixed incomes. That’s right putting solar on your house makes electricity cost more for the poor. So if you have the $50K upfront costs to spend to hook your house up to solar, and sell electricity back to the power company while using electricity from the grid at night and during storms etc. You can save a bundle and actually end up with the electric company sending you an annual check. (Read about it here)
This is well and good and green if you have the money. What many people don’t realize is that the power grid costs money, not just when it delivers watts of electricity to your home at night when your solar isn’t working, but towers, power lines, generating stations, all cost money to operate and maintain regardless of energy consumption. By law the power company must have enough power to supply you when you are not generating your own power, so whether you use it or not, if you are hooked up to the power grid the power company must maintain and be prepared to provide all the power you need, even if you don’t buy it. That means the power company must have capacity to replace all solar power instantly whether they need that capacity or not.
The result is that those consumers of electricity who rely fully on the power company shoulder a disproportionate share of the cost to maintain a reliable power grid as compared to those who only require the company’s services on an as-needed basis. Put another way: Customers with their own solar installations side-step the real cost of having access to the grid. That leaves those who can’t afford a $50K solar system to pick up the tab. Under the current regulations, low-income and fixed-income customers, and the vast majority of the middle class not rich enough to take advantage of personal solar generation, are subsidizing those who do.
To be fair for those who want to be able to hook up to the grid, regardless of how much power they use should be billed their fair share of the operations and maintenance associated with the most reliable power grid in the world. The reality is if you hook your solar system to the grid what you are doing is using the power company to store your solar power for when the sun isn’t shinning. That energy storage has costs.
The business model used by power companies last century, billing customers for kilowatt-hour consumption won’t work to cover the fixed costs associated with a reliable power grid that people only use as needed. There are fixed costs associated with reliability and service that do not vary with energy usage. What consumers pay for electric service needs to better reflect fixed costs versus consumption costs.
As it stands, unless you go totally off grid, “green” solar energy on your house is paid for on the backs of those who can’t afford tens of thousands of dollars to supplement their electricity with solar power. Most of the rich won’t go off grid because it adds tens of thousands of dollars to an already expensive system, and additionally adds significant maintenance costs associated with large battery banks (which will take up a big part of your garage).
The unintended consequences of government subsidies to individual solar power on homes is that not only are tax dollars used to help rich people go green, but the electricity costs to power the homes and apartments of low-income and fixed-income consumers are increased to cover the costs of the power grid so that the rich can have reliable power when the sun doesn’t shine, or their home system breaks down.
Solar power is a quaint way for the rich to mooch off of everybody else. We need to take government subsidies for solar power and stick them where the sun doesn’t shine.