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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Lansner Mailbag: Pay for your solar power, parasite

Mailbag gives some insight into the comments I receive from readers—good, bad, or in between—and how I feel about their feedback.

The Big California Question: To what extent and for how long should property owners receive financial incentives to install solar power on their rooftops?

In ostensibly the greenest of states, the California Public Utilities Commission could drastically cut financial incentives for those considering home-based power generation as early as Jan. 27, reducing the amount and duration of savings offered to current solar panel owners.

My column, raising all sorts of questions about the CPUC plan, which is backed by the state’s three giant private utilities, got all sorts of responses from readers.

Some see no point in paying more for energy so that a neighbor can end up with a financial return on their electricity-generating roof investment. They note that solar panel owners tend to belong to a wealthier demographic and can afford higher electricity bills.

In addition, there are others who, like me, have rooftop solar systems. They wonder why CPUC thinking doesn’t meaningfully value the $15,000 or so invested in a typical solar system, or 7% of the energy produced statewide by these mini power plants. These upfront costs allow solar panel owners to reduce energy costs and help keep the grid running smoothly. Not to mention aiding the state’s aggressive clean energy goals.

The mail bag has been so chock-full of opinions that I’m going to have a sort of debate about the benefits of these solar subsidies by simply using reader responses on both sides of the argument.

Anti-subsidies: “Pay for your solar power, parasite.”

Pro-subsidy: “It is a huge lie that the rich rob the poor. No one, including the poor, paid a dime for our rooftop solar panel. After the utilities shut down the solar panels on the rooftops, they’ll build solar farms, and guess who’s going to pay for it? Yes, everyone, including the poor.”

Anti-subsidies: “More affluent residents who own a solar power plant make an average profit, which, according to your calculations, is $129 per month. It seems to me that this demographic situation should come to terms with a decrease in the need for subsidies. Of course, there is no reason to force a premium for this power. Payment for electricity purchased at market prices can be reduced, which is an advantage for the poor.”

Pro-subsidy: “What happens if those same 1.2 million solar customers decide to wait for the next statewide heat wave and turn off our solar power from 1pm to 7pm? If the CPUC doesn’t appreciate the time, cost and risk we took, we shouldn’t be very important.”

Anti-subsidies: “If everyone took advantage of this, the utilities would either go bust or be forced to raise nightly rates to the point where it would negate the subsidy anyway.”

Pro-subsidy: “It looks like the utilities are trying to find a way to charge for the sun like it belongs to them. We need to encourage more rooftop solar systems, not discourage them, to help protect our environment and ensure a more sustainable energy future.”

Anti-subsidies: “Solar subsidies create an aura of need and success for these henchmen of a progressive socialist ideology. An engineered education system that denies the truth, from preschool to a failed liberal college, allows dozens of failed social engineering fantasies to drain our hard-earned tax dollars.”

Pro-subsidy: “The government has told all of us – for your wallet, for the grid and the planet – to cut your energy consumption, move it from noon, use renewable energy and buy a hybrid or electric car. Many of us have done this with great positive results.”

Anti-subsidies: “It’s not about cost, it’s about sustainability, right? If so, then the cost of breaking even should not be a concern for the environment.”

Pro-subsidy: “Environmentally conscious people can save.”

Anti-subsidies: Utilities “should remove costs from their system, and our tax/legislators must stop adding costs under the guise of welfare benefits.”

Pro-subsidy: “The blindness of officials who do not see that the subsidies we receive are only received because we have invested many dollars to install the system in our homes is a mystery.”

Pro-subsidy: “Worry more about keeping the lights on than about appeasing the energy companies.”

Anti-subsidies: Look at electric cars. “Taxes on gasoline go to the maintenance of our roads. Electric cars are free here. Personal message, I have a Tesla 3. So if we are going to maintain our roads, we need to figure out how to fund it.” (Note: California charges EV drivers an additional $100 per year for automatic registration for this reason.)

Pro-subsidy: “If homeowners with solar panels get enough charging, it will be profitable for them to buy batteries and cut off utilities completely. Imagine what will happen to the income of housing and communal services then.”

Jonathan Lansner is a business writer for the Southern California newsgroup. He can be contacted at jlansner@scng.com

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