California regulators are considering changes to the ‘net metering’ rules, which allow owners of home solar panels to sell excess electricity back to the grid. These changes may include a connection fee of several hundred dollars per year.
People who have rooftop solar–and who also have grid connections–usually expect the grid to be there for them, with whatever power they need, when night, clouds, etc cut their solar output to a low level. This certainly implies capital costs for the utility power generators and transmission/distribution companies. The concern is that those who get solar when it’s available, but rely on grid power at other times, are not paying their fare share of the infrastructure’s capital costs.
As an indicator of these costs, a modern combined-cycle gas turbine plant costs about $970 per peak kilowatt.. So a simplistic analysis would suggest that if a homeowner has a peak demand of 10 kw, he is driving $9700 in capital costs for the grid. This is probably somewhat excessive, since everyone’s peaks won’t occur at exactly the same moment…but the number is not trivial. A lot of assumptions would need to go into estimating a ‘correct’ cost, and those assumptions will surely be argued about fervently in California in the near future.
Key question: Could this be a turning point leading to a more realistic understanding of wind/solar costs in situations where reliable electricity is important, as opposed to the simplistic narratives about wind/solar’s ‘cheapness’? I mean, if even California is seeing a need to do something that would surely slow the uptake of ‘renewable’ energy…