Fossil Fuel Companies
versus Solar

The Oklahoma Example - 2014

(2014 Oct blog post)

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Introduction :

On 26 Jun 2014, I wrote to a relative who lives in Oklahoma --- motivated by a news item that I saw on TV (MSNBC) in Jun 2014. Namely, the news report was that Oklahoma passed a law that makes it illegal for Oklahomans to install solar panels on (or at) their homes.

At least, that's how the law was presented by Rachel Maddow. My first thoughts (that I expressed to my relative) were:

    What's up with that??? I thought Oklahoma was a great bastion of freedom in America. I thought they believed in free enterprise and competition and getting government out of people's hair (and off their backs). I thought Oklahoma was for people having freedom on their own property --- in their own homes.

    I think we all know what (and who) is behind this legislation. The 'oil interests' in Oklahoma do not like the competition. As Rachel Maddow put it, this is probably a good sign that alternative energy (like solar and wind) are getting competitive with fossil fuels --- and the oil companies are starting to get nervous. [This was probably the most accurate item in Maddow's report.]

    If I were living in Oklahoma, I would be outraged --- because I am hoping to have a solar panel installation at my home within the next 10 years.


A more accurate rendering of the Oklahoma legislation :

That fact-warping Rachel Maddow. By her wording, she clearly conveyed the impression that Oklahoma voted to outlaw installing solar panels on residences and other buildings.

Well, I did a web search on 'maddow oklahoma solar panels' and found a site that said she really MISCONSTRUED the law that was passed and that was OK'd by the Oklahoma governor. The law allows the utilities to charge a maintenance fee to solar panel owners to help cover the cost of maintaining the electric grid.

The Oklahoma utilities have not implemented the surcharge --- yet. (Such a surcharge is in effect in some states in 2014, such as Virginia.)

So solar panel installation is NOT outlawed --- BUT a surcharge may be implemented on solar panel owners.

Most utilities now (in 2014) compute each customer's bill by using a fee per kilowatt-hour (KWH). That fee is 'fudged' to include coverage of the utility's expenses for build-out and maintenance of the utility's portion of the electric-grid.

Here is an example of a typical electrical bill that shows that the charge is simply per KWH --- that is, there is no separate 'base fee' (independent of the amount of energy delivered to the customer) for maintenance of the grid that delivers that power and energy.

On this bill, there is a charge of about 8.2 cents per KWH for the first 10 KWH. The charge is about 6.76 cents per KWH for usage beyond that level. This 'multi-level' charging is typical of electric bills --- to residences, commercial establishments, and industrial installations.

When a solar panel owner has to draw on power from the utility (in excess of what they put into the grid), the solar panel owner WILL be paying a maintenance fee (in proportion to the NET power that they need to draw from the grid).

I guess the utilities are concerned that solar owners (who MIGHT contribute more kilowatt-hours to the grid than they use) will not be paying any maintenance fee at all --- yet the panel-owner will have the backup power option available --- plus, the solar panel owners will be using the grid to 'inject' their excess power into the grid.

I guess the utilities think solar panel owners should pay a grid-maintenance fee even if the panel-owner does not have any 'net-draw' of power from their utility.

If I had solar panels, I would not object to paying a monthly fee for those 2 benefits:

  • backup power --- when the sun does not shine and in case of panel outages, and

  • use of the grid to 'inject' my excess energy into the grid.


A better solution :   (a proper charging structure)

The proper solution would be for ALL the U.S. electric utilities to recognize that electric utilities provide TWO MAIN services:

  • maintenance of a portion of the electric grid

  • generation of some electric power provided on that grid.

As more and more 'distributed' solar (and wind) power comes onto the grid, the electric utilities will become MORE and MORE maintainers-and-constructors of the electric grid --- and LESS and LESS generators of power on that grid.

If the electric utilities would acknowledge this fact, then it would make sense for them to break electric bills down into 2 parts:

  • a monthly fee for maintenance of the utility's portion of the electric grid

  • a kilowatt-hour fee for 'net' usage of electricity from the grid.

Then solar panel owners who never have any 'net-draw' from the grid would still be getting a monthly bill for grid-maintenance fees. Thus the solar panel owners WOULD be paying to support the grid whose benefits they enjoy. (The grid-maintenance monthly fee would probably be no more than 10 to 30 dollars per month, as indicated by the sample electric bill above.)

That's my solution. Makes sense to me. I hope it makes sense to the utility regulatory bodies in the states --- pretty soon.


Ultra-conservatives against big businesses (utilities, oil-gas, coal) :

    (who would have guessed)

In finding this Oklahoma info, I ran across this solar-power support site --- DontKillSolar.com --- that is run by ULTRA-CONSERVATIVES like Barry Goldwater Junior --- in an organization called TUSK ( = Tell Utilities Solar won't be Killed ).

Here is a quote from their 'What We Want' page.

    "Monopoly utilities want to extinguish the independent rooftop solar market in America to protect their socialist control of how we get our electricity. They have engaged in class warfare and tried to sabotage net metering, a billing method that gives individual homeowners fair credit for power produced on their own rooftops. They would like to deny us Americans energy choice and maintain their monopoly status."

I never thought I would see the day when ultra-conservatives were using words and phrases like "socialist control" and "class warfare" applied to big business --- much less the oil-and-gas business and the coal business, who, like the utilities, would like to keep the TUSK folks from using their solar panels.

It is interesting to see ultra-conservatives supporting something (solar energy) that big businesses like utilities, oil-and-gas companies, and coal companies want to stifle.

The cartoon at the top of this page (the Koch brothers taking solar panels off of a man's roof and the man aiming a gun at them, telling them to stop) conveys this whole scenario in one funny image.

Here is another image that captures the situation.


Another business-alliance-VERSUS-business-alliance to promote :

Transportation companies (like airlines, trucking, railroads, and ocean shipping) should be enlisted in supporting solar power --- because more use of solar power reduces use of oil and gas and other fossil fuels which are needed for planes, trucks, and trains --- and thus would reduce the transportation companies' cost of refined fossil fuels.

In other words, it would be helpful to the faster implementation of really-clean renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal) if the transportation companies would see that their interests are almost directly in conflict with the interests of the fossil-fuel companies.

If Delta Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Airlines, etc. --- along with Norfolk Southern railroad, CSX railroad, Burlington Northern railroad, Union Pacific railroad --- and along with all the trucking companies and the ocean shipping companies --- would see that it is in their best interests to encourage the use of solar (and wind) energy to free up liquid fossil fuels and solid fossil fuels (coal) --- so that those fuels do not become prohibitively expensive within the next 25 years (2014 to 2039) --- then there would be a much brighter future for the U.S. and for our planet.


For further information :

In case I do not return to update this page, here are a few Google searches you can use to provide updates.


CONCLUSION :

If you are a voter, vote the enemies of solar and wind and geothermal power out of office.

If you are a stock holder of utility, oil/gas, coal, or transportation stocks, let those companies know your views --- and vote your annual proxy statements accordingly.

If you are a home owner, go on solar home tours in your area and look into installing solar panels for your home.

If you are a car owner, consider purchasing a hybrid or all-electric vehicle when you next need to replace your vehicle --- and look into charging it via solar.

If you are a pedaller (bicyclist), consider purchasing an electric-assisted bike or trike as you age up.



Wake up Shell Oil Company. Mother Nature easily wrecked your first
2 oil platforms in the North Alaska sea. And you still want to
put 6 platforms out there in 2015? What madness.



The electric utilities should charge for the build-out and
maintenance of the grid (and for their solar panels, if any),
but NOT for the energy from the sun.

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Page was posted 2014 Oct 06.



There are going to be nay-sayers, but we are past the time to act.
The negatives can be overcome or minimized.



Wait a minute. Our politicians say the U.S. is first in everything.
Maybe their own obstructionism is making liars out of them.



Start-of-sarcasm.
Yeah, right. The human population is not responsible for global warming.
End-of-sarcasm.
(Note that the shape of the curve above also matches the shape of the curve of the
number of automobiles, the number of airplanes, the number of ships, the
number of gas flares at oil wells, the number of heated homes, the
number of metal and glass foundry furnaces, the number of burned logs, etc. etc. etc.)



The cost of fuel for the transportation companies will almost
certainly be going up like the population graph above, as we approach 2050.



The height of these smoke stacks should be going up exponentially.