At present, utility companies across the nation are facing a changing landscape. Contrary to previous predictions, utility companies—which have for generations taken for granted their leverage as providers of electricity—are now looking for means to remain relevant and cope with the way homeowners are choosing to power their homes. Over the past decade, solar energy has been rising to prominence, transforming from inside-out the entire dynamic of how Americans and people the world over are generating their electricity.
At present, many cities and states across the U.S. have even set goals to achieve a particular solar carve out (or solar generation quota) by 2020 and 2030. With as much as solar has done to make a difference already, its utter dominance of the energy sector is being marked as inevitable.
With this said, we are already seeing how so many utility companies are handling this unexpected change.
Some Utility Companies compete by going to war with solar
From working with these utility companies firsthand, I can tell you there is a mix in attitude. Some utility companies aren’t taking this shift in paradigm gracefully, and spitefully hassle homeowners by dragging out the installation process, delaying grid connectivity, and demagoguing solar companies in efforts to dishearten and dissuade homeowners from completing the solar process. Sometimes this works, and sometimes this only stirs the pot for greater regulation.
It essentially comes down to the utility company’s willingness to cooperate. Some companies work with the project managers on a timely basis and make the process of connecting to the grid convenient and effective, while some utility companies stall the process, avoid phone calls, accuse the solar installer of neglecting the homeowner, and add a dose of contention into the mix. This is understandable. If you are not paying them for electricity anymore, they are essentially losing another lifetime customer.
Then you have other utility companies who read the writing on the wall and are willing to move with the times are making more fluid accommodations.
Other Utility Companies try to merge harmoniously with solar
From another perspective, many utility companies are offering rebates for going solar. This takes the form of compensation by a set dollar amount per kilowatt for each solar installation in their service area. A lot of times these rebate offers expire within the year, so it’s paramount that homeowners who can benefit jump on it right away! They could save thousands off their total installation cost.
Some utility companies, after you have gone solar and have an overproduction of electricity, offer solar renewable energy credits (SRECs). These are credits you can earn from your state for energy produced by your solar energy system in excess of your used amount. SRECs typically range from $50 to $300 per 1,000 kWhs. The value can fluctuate depending on availability and utility company policy. One major factor that facilitates an SREC market is a solar alternative compliance payment (SACP). This is basically a state fine that utility companies are made to pay in the event they don’t have enough SRECs to meet state requirements.
Still other Utility Companies think ahead
This pretty much covers how utility companies handle solar homeowners one-on-one, but some utility companies are becoming proactive and offering solar directly. This can be in the form of leasing solar panels to the homeowner before a solar installer does so, or it could be through their own renewed infrastructure. Utility companies of the future are using solar for their advantage and selling the energy to the homeowner at a discounted rate to retain control. This seems to be the smartest move if you are a utility company and wish to remain relevant in a world becoming increasingly powered by solar energy, but it would require great investment and an overhaul of their business model to acheive. Sometimes it's just easier to cooperate with the solar installers and work together to assist the homeowner on their choice of energy independence.
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by Ged Friedman