The proliferation of rooftop photovoltaic installations is making some electric utilities nervous, according to a report in The New York Times.
Utilities in some states would like to see reductions in net-metering plans, which require them to provide a credit to residential and commercial customers for excess power they generate. Although rooftop installations account for less than 1% of the nation’s electricity supply, utilities are concerned that PV may eventually challenge their long-term ability to maintain the grid.
A combination of tax credits and net-metering has encouraged more people to install PV. In California, for example, solar installations increased by 160% a year between 2010 and 2012. The state’s three major utilities estimate they will have to make up almost $1.4 billion a year in revenue, which will come from non-solar customers. If the costs were distributed evenly, that would amount to $185 a year for each customer, according to The Times.
“If the costs to maintain the grid are not being borne by some customers, then other customers have to bear a bigger and bigger portion,” Steve Malnight, a vice president at Pacific Gas and Electric, told the newspaper. “As those costs get shifted, that leads to higher and higher rates for customers who don’t take advantage of solar.”
California utilities unsuccessfully sought to cut back the net-metering program last year. But the state legislature did order the California Public Utilities Commission to study the implications of rooftop solar for both customers and utilities. Utilities in Arizona and North Carolina have also sought changes in rules covering credits to owners of residential PV systems.
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