Monday, June 16, 2014

Solar Powered Inequality

"In our energy policy discussions, we can’t forget those families who can’t afford an increase in costs due to an outdated policy that incentivizes high-income homeowners to install rooftop solar systems." - Monica Martinez
A number of recent articles on the distribution of distribution costs in a period of increasing solar panels.

In Forbes, former Michigan Public Service Commissioner Monica Martinez' The Poor Shouldn't Have To Bear The Cost Of Solar Power provides a refresher on the issue - which is policy favouring wealthier people:
Energy policy. Income inequality. Economic vitality. Why aren’t we talking about these concepts all together? Just last month I saw the articles with photos of solar panels at a Walmart in California, and once again heard power will be an important part of our nation’s future energy supply. I wholeheartedly agree that we have to diversify our energy resources and find ways to move to cleaner supply sources. And, if the result is less pollution, who would be opposed? I believe, however, that we must be both smart and holistic in our approach. I also think that we can’t bemoan income inequality while at the same time adopting energy policies that put low-income and middle-income families in worse economic shape.
Rooftop solar has a bright future and can benefit consumers. However, net metering policies ... are now having a detrimental impact on groups who can’t afford solar and are faced with higher electricity bills as a result of these policies. If you are not familiar with net metering, it is a billing system that allows those with rooftop solar systems on their homes to sell excess power that they generate back to their local power company.
Forbes also posted a report on Spain's passing of a long-discussed regulation clawing back payments on feed-in tariff contracts (setting a return rate at 7.4%), and lexology used that as inspiration to note roll backs in the Czech Republic, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria.

The biggest news may have been the revision of proposals to reform the EEG (renewables) surcharge in Germany. The proposal had been to charge the EEG surcharge on installations exceeding the size of most residential units, but not longer. According to the German Energy blog:
...Reportedly, a uniform 40% of the renewable surcharge (EEG surcharge) shall be due for power generated in new renewable power plants and which is self-consumed. Some details still have to be clarified...

Unlike the current version of the EEG amendment bill ... the EEG shall apparently not make an exemption for the first 10 MWh generated in small plants with an installed capacity of up to 10 kW, i.e. the size of many smaller solar power installations... 
Under the EEG 2012 self-generated and self-consumed power is exempted from the EEG surcharge if the electricity is not transmitted via a grid or consumed in the vicinity of the electricity-generating installation...
Recharge began its coverage of the new proposal:
Green groups are appalled about an apparent new compromise among government coalition parties to keep a surcharge to finance the expansion of renewables (EEG surcharge) at 40% in the case of self-consumed energy, but also extend it to home owners.

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