Profile picture for SoCal Engr

Any initiatives to separate cost of infrastructure in billing for electricity?

  • August 19 2014 - US
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Answers (9)

Profile picture for Blue Nile
As they say, "as California goes, so goes the nation".  California is often out in the lead on multiple issues, and the other States and the U.S. government often copies and plays "catch-up".  Especially so with energy and environmental issues.

I am confident that eventually all utilities in the nation will charge transmission charges for both energy sold and energy bought from "end user" customers, even if they sold sell and never buy.  If they are "grid connect" they will be paying for both the voltage regulation offered by the grid and the "backup" should there be no sunshine or their equipment fails or a DC breaker trips...

But by that time, maybe nobody will care as the cost of equipment and installation for solar will become so cheep it won't matter if one pays some distribution costs on the excess that is sold back?  I don't think battery storage will become cheap enough for most to choose "stand alone" by that time.

I have other reasons for keeping track of these kinds of political, economic, and environmental issues.

By the time they are all charging for transmission charges both ways, photo-voltaic installation won't be the current fad anyway.  More than likely it will be natural heating/cooling, natural ventilation, and natural lighting, going back to technologies from millennia ago.  There already is a house that has these kinds of features in Altadena.  The natural heating and cooling is primarily "heat sink" technology, with the addition of the natural ventilation, and control of solar heating with strategically placed shade.  Unfortunately, these features are not readily cookie cutter copied to other structures, and has to be designed into the structure before being built.

And those that are concerned about "carbon footprint" may not be that happy to be using so much concrete or rock for heat sinks in the first place, as the carbon usage for production, delivery, and installation of concrete is quite high.  Natural large rock is not much cheaper in terms of carbon footprint.
  • August 24 2014
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr

I get the distinct impression that this is...

#1 - An issue only of interest to SoCal residents, and, apparently, a minority at that.
#2 - Is of no interest to anyone, until one day solar owners wake up to a rude infrastructure charge.

  • August 24 2014
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Profile picture for Blue Nile
Well, any other discussion on the subject?  Did I answer the intent of the question adequately or not?  Do I get a "C" for my "essay"?  Or perhaps a "D" for effort?  Or perhaps an "F" for not providing a bibliography nor  citing my sources?

Or perhaps I get down graded for each grammatical, punctuation and spelling error?  I had one instructor that marked down one letter grade for each spelling error.  Thus 4 or more spelling errors was an automatic "F".... Brutal!  I had to drop the class!  But I attended through the end.
  • August 24 2014
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Profile picture for Blue Nile
bump....
  • August 22 2014
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Profile picture for Blue Nile
I forgot to mention AQMD impacts.  Obviously the same issues as "carbon based" vice "renewables" & nuclear, and is more of an issue at peak hours vice off hours.
  • August 22 2014
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Profile picture for Blue Nile
By the way, even though they are allowed to charge for distribution for both electricity bought and sold for users that have solar, many are still not charging, for some very good reasons:
1)    State mandates publishing an energy source profile, showing percent renewable, nuclear, gas, coal, and oil.
2)    Customers have a right to "buy" "cleaner" energy (renewable or nuclear), but relatively small percentage of total production still.  Customers that choose this pay a premium.
3)    Peak demand is in the afternoon, but solar peak production is also in the afternoon, and residential customers that have solar typically have a peak usage later in the evening, when electricity is cheaper due to less demand.  Many business pay "time of use" rates, thus the peak demand energy can be sold for more.
4)    The state is mandating that the utility companies and municipalities ween themselves off of coal and oil, even if the coal is out of State.  The schedule is fairly aggressive.  The utilities & municipalities don't have the ability to meet the targets on their own.  Fines will be imposed by the State for not meeting the goals.
5)    San Onofre    had to be taken off line last year, and won't be coming back, thus not only is the available peak power reduced, but the "alternative energy" (non-carbon based) energy mix is substantially reduced making it harder to meet State mandates and looking worse on the required "energy mix" publication.

Thus it is in the Utility Company and Municipalities' interest to encourage more solar installation, especially as the Federal government is still substantially subsidizing the material and installation costs.

I don't know which companies/municipalities are presently charging for distribution/transmission both in and out as compared to only charging distribution/transmission for "net energy purchased".  Obviously those that are only charging transmission/distribution for net energy purchased are subsidizing those that chose to install solar, but it is presently to the Utility Company/municipalities' benefit to do so.

Still, with the State law change this year I believe most will phase some additional transmission/distribution charge in.
  • August 22 2014
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Profile picture for Blue Nile
By the way, for the solar power, the State legislature passed something about 5 months ago to allow the utility companies to subtract a fee from the energy they buy back from the customer for use of the distribution system.  I believe they even set a percentage, but would have to look it up.  With the old magnetic mechanical spinning meters, the companies were only charging net difference per month.  But now that most of the meters have been changed out to electronic, they are monitoring both incoming and outgoing energy, so they can charge for distribution for both.
  • August 22 2014
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Profile picture for Blue Nile
When the State forced "deregulation", and took over Edison's High Voltage Grid as the "independent operators", and allowed energy users to buy their power from "anyone" regardless of which transmission lines and infrastructure were used to get it there, the power utility companies and power departments of local municipalities were forced to decouple the energy charge from the metering and distribution charge.  It has been that way almost 2 decades now.    Pasadena even instigated a "stranded debt sur-charge" for the Utah coal plant that they own a share of, as it was believed at the time that the "competition" would lower the value of that asset putting it underwater on the bonds.  But of course, the legislators wrote the law in such a way that people would sell what couldn't be delivered due to insufficient capacity on the distribution network for moving the power from the generation point to the end user, so power companies were forced at the last moment to buy outrageously priced energy from other sources to meet their customers demands to avoid brown-outs or selected shut-downs.    The law was re-written, but people can still buy their power from any company they choose, and can choose a different company to meter it too.

Of course, you remember Enron went bankrupt.  They were undercutting all the prices of all the utility companies and municipalities.  And they owned "no infrastructure" of any kind.  You can only do that so long before the pyramid collapses.
  • August 22 2014
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr
I've periodically heard rumblings about the utility companies figuring out how to separate charges for the infrastructure required to deliver electricity from the cost of the "electricity delivered". The stated reason is that, with all costs currently bundled into one rate, those with solar are selling back power at a burdened rate...effectively charging the utilities for their own infrastructure.

Whatever else I may think of the public utilities, I agree with the general concept that a house connected to the grid should pay for the infrastructure (I.e., having power-generating panels does not eliminate the infrastructure costs). Just curious if anyone has heard of any effort in this area that may actually have legs.
  • August 21 2014
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