Even though rooftop solar and net metering don’t fit the age-old centralized utility model, it’s smarter for utilities to join them than to fight them.
Edison Electric Institute recently published a report that solar photovoltaics and battery storage were technologies that could “directly threaten the centralized utility model.”
EEI’s fear is that rooftop solar, battery storage and energy-efficiency programs will reduce demand from the grid, lower prices for electricity and cut into the profits of utilities.
The major rooftop installers – SolarCity, Sungevity, Sunrun and Verengo – have formed a lobbying group Alliance for Solar Choice to fight utility pushback.
Facing a changing world, it’s a natural reaction for utilities to dig in their heels.
But that’s not the smart move.
Our UtilityPulse ‘13 TM research shows that 40 percent of consumers who’ve taken steps to save energy in their homes are frustrated because they aren’t seeing the impact on their bills they expected, and they blame utility rate increases and exaggerated claims for their disappointment. Utility Pulse also reveals that Americans who perceive their utilities to be environmentally friendly give higher customer satisfaction ratings.
Rooftop solar and other renewables present a rare opportunity for utilities to improve their customer- satisfaction scores: 60 percent of respondents say it’s important that their utility is using renewable resources.
OK, solar power and net metering don’t fit the centralized utility model.
But utilities don’t want to be seen as obstructionist.
Instead, utilities should —
- embrace rooftop solar,
- market it,
- manage it, and even
- offer to install and manage rooftop units, on the Solar City model.
The result would be to make friends among their customers and, in the end, benefit from a power source that can shave a few megawatts off peak-load demands on those hot summer days.