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Earth Power Technology

Oklahoma Moves To Discourage Solar and Wind Power 504

Posted by samzenpus
from the who-needs-the-sun? dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Paul Monies reports at NewsOK that Oklahoma's legislature has passed a bill that allows regulated utilities to apply to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to charge a higher base rate to customers who generate solar and wind energy and send their excess power back into the grid reversing a 1977 law that forbade utilities to charge extra to solar users. 'Renewable energy fed back into the grid is ultimately doing utility companies a service,' says John Aziz. 'Solar generates in the daytime, when demand for electricity is highest, thereby alleviating pressure during peak demand.'

The state's major electric utilities backed the bill but couldn't provide figures on how much customers already using distributed generation are getting subsidized by other customers. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma have about 1.3 million electric customers in the state. They have about 500 customers using distributed generation. Kathleen O'Shea, OG&E spokeswoman, said few distributed generation customers want to sever their ties to the grid. 'If there's something wrong with their panel or it's really cloudy, they need our electricity, and it's going to be there for them,' O'Shea said. 'We just want to make sure they're paying their fair amount of that maintenance cost.' The prospect of widespread adoption of rooftop solar worries many utilities. A report last year by the industry's research group, the Edison Electric Institute, warns of the risks posed by rooftop solar (PDF). 'When customers have the opportunity to reduce their use of a product or find another provider of such service, utility earnings growth is threatened," the report said. "As this threat to growth becomes more evident, investors will become less attracted to investments in the utility sector.''"
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Oklahoma Moves To Discourage Solar and Wind Power

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2014 @05:37PM (#46809751)

    Why do investors think they are entitled to growth?

    There is a risk to returns. If the investors want no risk then they should get no gains.

  • Suck It Up! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Monday April 21, 2014 @05:41PM (#46809783)

    'When customers have the opportunity to reduce their use of a product or find another provider of such service, utility earnings growth is threatened," the report said. "As this threat to growth becomes more evident, investors will become less attracted to investments in the utility sector.''

    Suck it up princess!

    I know you're going to fight tooth and nail to get legislators to protect your business model but the writing is on the wall. Feel free to look up buggy whip manufacturers if you want to see how this story is going to end in the long run.

    Oh, and if you think we, the public, are going to feel any sympathy for you as your business model gets replaced by newer and better technology, trust me when I say you're wrong. No sympathy. Adapt or die.

    I know you think legislate or die are the options on the table but I assure you, it's adapt or die.

  • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Monday April 21, 2014 @05:45PM (#46809825)

    I don't know how or where this "grow or die" idea began, but it's just plain wrong. You can't have infinite growth within a finite market.

  • by Lazere (2809091) on Monday April 21, 2014 @05:46PM (#46809843)
    500 customers from 1.3 million is pretty much a rounding error. You can't tell me that they are such a drain on the system that the power company can't pay the maintenance costs.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday April 21, 2014 @05:49PM (#46809873)

    If you take off your "Electric Companies are TEH EVIL" hat for a second, it's pretty interesting that they have the same issue that states do with paying for roads in relation to electric cars. That is, someone generating electricity or using an electric car is making use of a resource where the cost of access is subsidized by something you are no longer consuming.

    I think the electric companies have a pretty good point that they still have to pay to maintain lines to your house even though you are now consuming a fraction of what you would have.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday April 21, 2014 @05:49PM (#46809879) Journal
    This seems like the sort of problem that could be much more logically and less painfully solved by breaking out the (more or less constant, at least within a given size class and geographic area) grid hookup cost and the per-KW/h price for electricity as separate items on the bill.

    Infrastructure doesn't build and maintain itself, so if you want to maintain your connection, it's only logical that you'll pay something for that. If you try to bundle the distribution costs into the energy cost, though, you just get a bit of a mess since the amount a given person is paying for infrastructure can vary wildly and you end up having to field requests like this. Even here, they make a somewhat arbitrary distinction between users who do feed to the grid and those who don't (who presumably also use less power but just aren't easy to identify). Just break out the two items and call it a day.
  • by raymorris (2726007) on Monday April 21, 2014 @05:58PM (#46809953)

    They say they want to start working out a solution BEFORE it becomes a big problem.

    A solar customer could sell lots of power to them around noon, and use about the same amount at night. This customer would have an electric bill of $0, because they put as much energy into the grid as they took out. In 10 or 20 years, if a million customers are doing that, you have the power company trying to run on a budget of zero - no money to pay salaries, no money to fix equipment, etc. Obviously that doesn't work, the power company would go broke and noone would have power, except while it's sunny. They don't want to wait until that happens to address the problem, a problem which probably will occur if nothing is changed.

  • by bloodhawk (813939) on Monday April 21, 2014 @05:59PM (#46809965)
    I think the idea is to get this passed while it is still "only" 500 people. They would get a lot more push back if it was 5,000 or 50,000 at which point it would start to be a significant factor pushing up costs for others. NOTE: I think they need to evolve with the times, not try to charge more to sustain their model but I do understand why they are doing it.
  • by haruchai (17472) on Monday April 21, 2014 @06:00PM (#46809983)

    Oklahoma has some fantastic wind & solar resources and adjoins the Texas Panhandle where there are many wind turbines and therefore a reasonable transmission infrastructure.
    Even if they didn't need the wind & solar, Texas can make very good use of it. They should be investing in those resources and they could probably get Texas to pay for a big chunk of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2014 @06:03PM (#46810005)

    Regulatory capture is a symptom of lack of democracy. The solution isn't to eliminate democracy entirely, but to improve the democratic process.

    The baby-with-the-bathwater reductio is elimination of the entire justice system because some powerful guys are good at manipulating it a bit. And, having been brought up at the tail end of a fascist state, I guarantee that you don't want to live in a country with an impotent judiciary.

  • by rts008 (812749) on Monday April 21, 2014 @06:05PM (#46810031) Journal

    You obviously are not familiar with Oklahoma.

    Oklahoma is a firm Republic state, and past experience tells me this will be legislated.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2014 @06:10PM (#46810087)

    Exactly this. They shouldn't charge solar customers a higher base rate, they should make the pricing more transparent. Charge everybody a monthly connection fee. That goes to maintain the lines. Then you charge for electricity consumed by their plant. They have two businesses going, generation and distribution. Their pricing should reflect that.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday April 21, 2014 @06:11PM (#46810103)

    I don't object to a fair "base rate" that actually covers the maintenance overhead; seems fair to pay that even if you're a net seller to the utility.

    That much is perfectly fine, but why should a customer who decreases his electricity consumption by, say, 5 kWh per day by means of installing solar batteries be treated differently than a customer who decreases his electricity consumption by 5 kWh per day by means of buying more energy-saving home appliances?

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Monday April 21, 2014 @06:21PM (#46810215)

    Do Oklahoma power companies not charge separately for connectivity and power consumption?

    I thought it was common sense to be charged a fixed daily rate and an additional rate per kWh.
    The fixed rate is supposed to pay for transmission lines, maintenance, billing, customer support etc. The kWh rate pays for generation.

  • False dilemma (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sjbe (173966) on Monday April 21, 2014 @06:32PM (#46810303)

    I don't know how or where this "grow or die" idea began, but it's just plain wrong.

    It's not grow or die. It's grow or lose investors. If I own a company (I'm a shareholder) and want a return on my investment the only way for that to occur is for the company to grow. In fact it has to grow faster than the rate of inflation or I will be losing money. The company has to engage in profitable activities sufficient to generate a return for investors. If the future value of risk adjusted cash flows is lower than another potential investment then the company will lose investors because they will put their money into the other investment.

    You can't have infinite growth within a finite market.

    I've never seen a company experience infinite growth or anything close so that's kind of a meaningless statement. You can however have substantial growth rates for a long time both for a company and for a market. There are companies that have grown by 10%+ per year on average for decades.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2014 @06:36PM (#46810333)

    Where I live a large number of summer homes are unoccupied the majority of the year, to get around zero charges for empty homes (which still require system maintenence to keep connected) the utility charges a daily connection fee, coupled with slightly lower per KWh charges.

    This change in billing structure could easily solve the $0 solar customer problem.

    However the proposed changes, raising the base rate, will also encourage energy conservation.

  • Re:False dilemma (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kwbauer (1677400) on Monday April 21, 2014 @07:03PM (#46810565)

    Not exactly the only way. If a company is profitable it can always return a portion of that profit to its investors. This is called dividends.

  • Re:Suck It Up! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NoKaOi (1415755) on Monday April 21, 2014 @07:04PM (#46810589)

    It is the utility company's responsibility to gain as much profit for their shareholders as they can. Since it's a monopoly, it's the government's responsibility to keep them in check. The problem is that the utility is succeeding at their responsibility to their shareholders, but the government is failing at its responsibility to its citizens. People always point out how evil the utility company is but fail to point out that the government who is supposed to be regulating them is who is truly evil.

  • by Firethorn (177587) on Monday April 21, 2014 @08:22PM (#46811179) Homepage Journal

    Unless you are at the end of the line the line must be maintained if you are there or not, in order to reach the next customer, so that is not a cost to keep you connected.

    This sort of thinking has the cost of the line be $0 every customer but the last one, who's charged millions. Not all that practical. It's much easier to look at the cost of the line* and divide by the number of customers. I'd say it's more fair as well. If you really want, consider that you're paying for the run from your neighbor up the line to yourself. Your down-line neighbor picks up his share, etc...

    The next step is to consider the base cost of a line with theoretical zero capacity, and charge each customer that ($10 or so), while building in a standard rate into the cost for building the line with the necessary power capacity(1k amps, 2k amps, etc...), including all associated equipment like transformers, switching stations, etc...
    Add another $10 or so into the fee above for billing, support, and other paperwork, and you have the general situation for most power billing in the USA.

    *Well, really the network.

  • Re:False dilemma (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:33PM (#46811713)

    But you as an investor will never get rich that way. People want to buy into something like Google, Apple, Amazon, whatever (remember the Netscape IPO?) - that starts out at $30 a share and zooms to $300 a share. The only way that happens is if your company grows! So while never growing is fine, it only appeals to a limited set of investors. Most investors want to buy a stock that will go up in value over time.

    And of course, the real issue here is that it's completely and utterly inappropriate for a regulated utility to be that kind of "growth company!"

  • by MrBigInThePants (624986) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @01:58AM (#46812873)
    What a complete load of shite.

    Obama a socialist?!

    And I suppose all those ex-goldman sachs employees on his staff are closet socialists also??

    There are some retarded people in the world....

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