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posted by n1 on Tuesday April 29 2014, @05:11AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the renewable-energy-will-ruin-the-economy dept.

The NYT writes in an editorial that for the last few months, the Koch brothers and their conservative allies in state government have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy by pushing legislatures to impose a surtax on this increasingly popular practice, hoping to make installing solar panels on houses less attractive.

The coal producers' motivation is clear: They see solar and wind energy as a long-term threat to their businesses. That might seem distant at the moment, when nearly 40 percent of the nation's electricity is still generated by coal, and when less than 1 percent of power customers have solar arrays. But given new regulations on power-plant emissions of mercury and other pollutants, and the urgent need to reduce global warming emissions, the future clearly lies with renewable energy.

For example, the Arizona Public Service Company, the state's largest utility, funneled large sums through a Koch operative to a nonprofit group that ran an ad claiming net metering would hurt older people on fixed incomes by raising electric rates. The ad tried to link the requirement to President Obama. Another Koch ad likens the renewable-energy requirement to health care reform, the ultimate insult in that world. "Like Obamacare, it's another government mandate we can't afford," the narrator says. "That line might appeal to Tea Partiers, but it's deliberately misleading," concludes the editorial. "This campaign is really about the profits of Koch Carbon and the utilities, which to its organizers is much more important than clean air and the consequences of climate change."

Related Stories

Oklahoma to Charge Customers Using Solar Panels 47 comments

NewsOK reports that the Oklahoma legislature has passed a bill that allows regulated utilities to apply to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to charge a higher base rate to customers who generate solar and wind energy and send their excess power back into the grid reversing a 1977 law that forbade utilities to charge extra to solar users. "Renewable energy fed back into the grid is ultimately doing utility companies a service," says John Aziz. "Solar generates in the daytime, when demand for electricity is highest, thereby alleviating pressure during peak demand."

The state's major electric utilities backed the bill but couldn't provide figures on how much customers already using distributed generation are getting subsidized by other customers. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma have about 1.3 million electric customers in the state. They have about 500 customers using distributed generation. Kathleen O'Shea, OG&E spokeswoman, said few distributed generation customers want to sever their ties to the grid. "If there's something wrong with their panel or it's really cloudy, they need our electricity, and it's going to be there for them," O'Shea said. "We just want to make sure they're paying their fair amount of that maintenance cost." The prospect of widespread adoption of rooftop solar worries many utilities. A report last year by the industry's research group, the Edison Electric Institute, warns of the risks posed by rooftop solar (PDF). "When customers have the opportunity to reduce their use of a product or find another provider of such service, utility earnings growth is threatened," the report said. "As this threat to growth becomes more evident, investors will become less attracted to investments in the utility sector."

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by c0lo on Tuesday April 29 2014, @05:55AM

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday April 29 2014, @05:55AM (#37535) Journal

    They see solar and wind energy as a long-term threat to their businesses.

    Long term? Far from it, it's a present and imminent danger for them, unless rolled back immediately and declared prohibited.
    You see, solar panels transform every person that uses them from a bound (consumer) into a producer. As such, with every person doing so:
    * the coal energy producers are losing income and they'll need to raise prices to stay in business;
    * with every price raise, there will be more persons willing to abandon them.

    Countries more advanced in using renewables already show signs of the so called utilities spiral of death [reneweconomy.com.au].
    Even countries with a lower level of renewables penetration may exhibit the similar symptoms (e.g. being pushed by the greed of the "griders" [abc.net.au] - 51% of the cost of energy in Australia is due to "network charges"). Guess what? The photovoltaics are cheap now, subsidized or not, there is an alternative to get out from their control, even if only a little bit at a time.

    One of the dangers, though: the govts will be losing a part of their taxes - for certain, I'm not paying any tax on the electricity from my solar panels, but neither the coal burners ('cause I'm not paying them for it). I don't know how govts are going to react, but I'm dread the reaction of the "pro-business" ones

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday April 29 2014, @08:10AM

      by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @08:10AM (#37560) Journal

      Interesting article! The problem with off grid might be the cost of energy storage.

      Anything that legally prevent wiring to the neighbors to share power sources and storage?
      (ie diesel engine for peak and spare as well as batteries)

      • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Tuesday April 29 2014, @02:25PM

        by Thexalon (636) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @02:25PM (#37669)

        Anything that legally prevent wiring to the neighbors to share power sources and storage?

        As a non-lawyer:
        1. You would have to obtain an easement if you cross either public land or private land of someone who doesn't want to be a part of your network. So wiring up to the house next door is probably doable, but wiring up to the house across the street is probably not.
        2. There may also be local, county, or state regulations preventing the development of a competitor to the granted electric utility monopoly, which could stop you from doing what you have in mind.

        There's an obvious practical problem with your plan though: If you don't have sunlight or wind, your next door neighbor almost definitely doesn't either. I could imagine an advantage if one of you agrees to run the solar and the other agrees to run the windmills (and both make sense in your location), but other than that you and your neighbor are in basically the same boat. There will also be a challenge if either power system breaks - if your neighbor has a problem, you'll probably have to deal with a brownout.

        --
        The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
        • (Score: 2) by Foobar Bazbot on Tuesday April 29 2014, @07:49PM

          by Foobar Bazbot (37) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @07:49PM (#37812) Journal

          But there are economies of scale -- a diesel generator or battery bank (y'know, the actual things GP talked about sharing...) of twice the power/energy is likely to cost less than twice as much.

          And stuff like pump-up gravitational storage, if it's doable at all, may be only be feasible on one person's property, but they may be able to do a big enough installation to benefit several neighbors who lack suitable topography, provided those neighbors chip in for the additional cost of excavation.

          • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday April 29 2014, @09:33PM

            by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @09:33PM (#37867) Journal

            The thing is that a dieselgenerator that powers at least 4 households has an efficiency of circa 45%. For less load the efficiency is crap.

  • (Score: 1) by aristarchus on Tuesday April 29 2014, @07:12AM

    by aristarchus (2645) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @07:12AM (#37546) Journal

    Wholly crap! Utility companies that have to pay me for the sun falling on my roof? Yeah! Down with that. They will lose market share? Too bad, so sad. After being ripped off by energy companies for all my life, am I going to be sad when the entire economy of limited resources is exploded by the sun, the wind, and the rain? If only I could afford parraphin, you know, the good stuff like in the old days, made of the oil reservoir in a Sperm Whale's Head, to light my way into the new industrial age.

    --
    Runaway: Mentally Unfit!
  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by wonkey_monkey on Tuesday April 29 2014, @07:25AM

    by wonkey_monkey (279) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @07:25AM (#37548) Homepage

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/14/04/28/034722 5/the-koch-brothers-attack-on-solar-energy?utm_sou rce=rss1.0mainlinkanon&utm_medium=feed [slashdot.org]

    -

    It's a word-for-word dupe of a Slashdot summary from yesterday, and it's not the first [soylentnews.org]. Why not just cut out the middlemen?

    --
    systemd is Roko's Basilisk
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by kaszz on Tuesday April 29 2014, @08:05AM

      by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @08:05AM (#37558) Journal

      Because that way one can dump slashdot completely and finding stories for the few users right now may be hard on our own. At least until the productive user base grows. I think the important thing may be the stories skipped.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by crutchy on Tuesday April 29 2014, @09:25AM

      by crutchy (179) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @09:25AM (#37572) Homepage Journal

      Why not cut out the middleman?

      Gee let me think... cos /. sucks balls!
      I'd rather read all slashdot summaries on Soylent than on Slashdot.
      Soylent is also a smaller, more closeknit, and (imho) nerdier community.

      So why aren't you cutting out the middleman, just outta curiosity?

    • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29 2014, @11:11AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29 2014, @11:11AM (#37593)

      SoylentNews has done nothing besides post bunk conspiracy theory articles and offend half of its userbase with a convoluted "name change" voting system that many registered users did not receive (yes, I hit the checkbox and yes, I checked my SPAM folder). The Koch brothers, for example, are the designated left-wing scare tactic [washingtonpost.com] this political season. This is in spite of the fact that they contribute to Reason [reason.com] magazine, and have given money to gay rights movements, pot legalization, and ending the wars [mediaite.com]. They are more libertarian leaning than anything (not surprising since their father ran for the Libertarian party president in the 80's). The reality is, since 2006, the Democratic party has received more donations from the rich [ijreview.com] than the Republicans.

      I apologize to anyone outside the United States who has to skip through this drivel. SoylentNews has the potential to be so much better than the old site, but the long term outlook is trending closer towards InfoWars [infowars.com] than Ars Technica [www.arstechnica]. What's next, a Monsanto story?

    • (Score: 2) by LaminatorX on Tuesday April 29 2014, @01:30PM

      by LaminatorX (14) <reversethis-{moc ... ta} {xrotanimal}> on Tuesday April 29 2014, @01:30PM (#37634)

      If submitters want to send their stories to multiple sites, they certainly can. We do not cross check /.'s news stream when posting stories. Even if we did, it would be possible for us both to have the same submission queued in advance right now and neither site would have any way to know.

      If this bothers you, take it up with the submitter.

      --
      Banjo - Fiddle - Tolkien: The Lonely Mountain String Band. lmsb.me [lmsb.me]
    • (Score: 2) by tathra on Tuesday April 29 2014, @05:57PM

      by tathra (3367) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @05:57PM (#37766)

      slashdot has also run dupes of stories we ran first. its not surprising since the audiences are similar and even shared. a lot of people dropped /. entirely, so how would it benefit anyone if we were to "check" somehow with /. to ensure that we arent running the same stories? and how would that even be possible?

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bziman on Tuesday April 29 2014, @12:35PM

    by bziman (3577) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @12:35PM (#37618)

    About five years ago, I bought a 4.5kW array and a large battery bank for my house in Virginia. It cost about $40k, but after tax credits and energy rebates and RECs, I paid only $13k out of pocket. And my net grid usage dropped to zero. I was perfectly happy to pay my local power coop $15 a month for off peak power storage (the batteries only being there for backup).

    Fast forward five years, and I have another house in Colorado, where it is a lot sunnier than Virginia. My house is twice as big, but the 3.5kW system I had installed last fall might actually be overkill for my needs.

    This one cost me nothing out of pocket. It's a "power purchase agreement". Basically this company put solar panels on my roof and they are selling me the electricity the panels generate. It's just like having another utility, except that I'm paying less than eight cents a kilowatt hour, instead of the twelve cents I'd be paying the coal burning plant down the road. And again, I'm perfectly happy to pay the power company $10 a month to be connected to the grid for off peak power.

    My only regret is that I probably should have just bought the system outright, since it turned out that it would have cost less than $20k installed - before tax incentives.

    At these prices, I feel like every new house ought to have solar panels. It's just so easy.

  • (Score: 1) by Soruk on Tuesday April 29 2014, @12:49PM

    by Soruk (484) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @12:49PM (#37622)

    Being on the receiving end of this is known as being Koch-blocked.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29 2014, @03:46PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29 2014, @03:46PM (#37709)

      (It's actually pronounced "coke.")

  • (Score: 1) by Webweasel on Tuesday April 29 2014, @01:21PM

    by Webweasel (567) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday April 29 2014, @01:21PM (#37629) Homepage Journal

    I had wondered why, considering the recession we have just (still?) suffered, why the British government didn't invest in local solar panel production. We are rapidly approaching power shortages in the UK. Brownouts are not occurring yet but due to a lack of investment in our power industry, we are now desperately trying to get Nuclear power stations built in time to address the shortage.

    So back in 2008 considering both an economic problem and an impending power problem why didn't the UK government plow money into a solar panel scheme? We can argue about protectionism and Chinese imports some other day. But if we had limited imports and driven our unemployed but skilled tech sector into efficient production of solar panels, combined with appropriate storage we could have produced a new industry in the UK. But no, obviously people like this lobbied the government to keep their monopoly positions and keep lining their own pockets.

    --
    Priyom.org Number stations, Russian Military radio. "You are a bad, bad man. Do you have any other virtues?"-Runaway1956
    • (Score: 2) by EvilJim on Wednesday May 14 2014, @05:43AM

      by EvilJim (2501) on Wednesday May 14 2014, @05:43AM (#43073) Journal

      Come on, everyone knows the UK only gets two days of sun a year, you should all be going for mini hydro-electric on your roofs :) way more effective in that climate.

      • (Score: 1) by Webweasel on Wednesday May 14 2014, @08:09AM

        by Webweasel (567) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 14 2014, @08:09AM (#43090) Homepage Journal

        Funny and true ;-)

        Still while were on the topic, I am looking into getting some more water buts and using them for toilet flushing instead of the main supply.

        So yeah, use the resources available to you.

        --
        Priyom.org Number stations, Russian Military radio. "You are a bad, bad man. Do you have any other virtues?"-Runaway1956
  • (Score: 2) by Geezer on Tuesday April 29 2014, @01:44PM

    by Geezer (511) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @01:44PM (#37642)

    Sure, making a couple of bucks off of surplus generation is nice, but given the hassle the capitalists are trying to make it, it's quite satisfying to just tell Duke, ConEd, whomever to just "Come get your damned meter." and tell the state/county tax man to go piss up a rope.

    Last year I helped a friend put the finishing touches on a totally off-grid cabin (solar power, wood heat, rain water) and she threw a fine party the day Duke Energy came to disconnect her.

    My retirement home in the same intentional community will be completely off-grid by design. And the kicker? The 900 acres of the community was basically free...a reclaimed and restored coal strip mine!

    • (Score: 1) by Hawkwind on Tuesday April 29 2014, @05:11PM

      by Hawkwind (3531) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @05:11PM (#37748)

      Too cool, can you point to any stories/information about this community?

      • (Score: 2) by Geezer on Wednesday April 30 2014, @09:49AM

        by Geezer (511) on Wednesday April 30 2014, @09:49AM (#38034)

        The place is called Wisteria, located in Meigs County, Ohio. Their public web site http://www.wisteria.org/ [wisteria.org] is mostly about the camping and festival events they host to help cover taxes and pay for the ongoing restoration of the land.

        It's a remarkable place...3 generations working together for over 20 years to build and sustain a collective dream.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29 2014, @07:08PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29 2014, @07:08PM (#37797)

      "The 900 acres of the community was basically free...a reclaimed and restored coal strip mine!"

      Which basically means no water, as in no safe ground water.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29 2014, @06:02PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29 2014, @06:02PM (#37768)

    too bad I canr just stick two wires into my green manicured lawn to power
    my house ... but real solar isnt much more difficult.
    I live in thailand and the goverment is propaganda on pretty big about going green and stopping global warming. thus I decided to install some solar. having about 40 x 40 meter spare land I would have been able to power a medium sized 100 kva transformer... until I went to the solarpower incentive office where I was informed that by law the solar panels have to reside on a roof. a roof of a house to be exact. not a garage or a shed. also the house to which tbe roof belongs to must already have a regular electriceter installed.
    after all this let down I nevertheless decided to spring for a 3 kva. the reason being mostly that that was the only reasonable roof with slope and sunshine duration. anyways the system is installed and ready to go since january and I am holding the power purchase for 25 years in my hand. unfortunatly I cannot connect it to the grid ...sorrry... because I also need a license that allows me to sell electricity. it seems that the right to sell electricity is not a human right.

    so in conclusion I th8nk the world wide push for renewables by govermemts is mostly pure propaganda to brain wash the voters. in reality theres tons of corruption and the preferred way to "power the serfs" is one or two generaters that oil/grease the goverments back doors.

    propaganda has never been more alive!