Sixteen solar panels reside on the top of my barn. Inside an inverter transforms them into energy acceptable to the grid. I net meter. On a sunny day, and most are, this time of year my system generates 20 Kw per day. Recently, I was considering getting more panels since my barn roof could accommodate at least twice as many and maybe more. After reading about what has occurred in a number of other states, I might just wait and see what happens.
The giant utilities have begun a huge campaign against net metering. In 2013 Xcel, the company here in the Panhandle of Texas, overtly attacked net metering in Colorado. After the utility commission there received more that 30,000 comments and 200 protesters marched on Xcel’s Denver office, they backed off. A poll indicated that more than three quarters of the people in Colorado support net metering. The commission agreed to preserve net metering. In Hawaii, a state leading the way with solar, the utility is fighting back, refusing to approve new systems. Why? One in ten houses there have solar on rooftops and this individually produced electricity is cutting into the Hawaiian Electric Company’s profits. Arizona citizens can be added to this list. Solar makes sense in Arizona with something like 95% of days sunny. For the 2 per cent of the electric utility customers there with solar, it cuts their bills about 70 per cent. Last summer the utility company launched a campaign against solar growth and net metering. What they wanted was to charge customers retail rates while paying solar customers wholesale rates and charge them a monthly fee per Kw hour generated which would, of course, in most cases defeat the purpose of having solar in the first place. They ran ads telling non solar customers that they had to pay more because of the solar generated by individuals with solar. These ads were run by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an anti-renewable energy non-profit funded largely by the Koch brothers who own immense oil and gas interests.
I meet more and more people who decide to get off the grid partly for the independence and partly to avoid paying these money hungry utility companies. Here in the Panhandle, electricity remains relatively cheap. Even with a large all electric house and weather extremes, my electric bills average less than 350 per month. If I spend a lot of money on more panels and the rules change here in Texas, it might not be worth the cost. As I write this, I keep asking myself just how much would total independence from the electric company be worth?