Who’s the Real Enemy When It Comes to Solar?

Plenty of people know that solar power is a great alternative to traditional energy sources.

It’s contributing to job growth and increases homeowner values. Plus, Americans want solar power! But despite this, utilities, advocates, lawmakers, and solar energy companies go round and round blaming each other, while the person who just wants to install rooftop solar suffers (see Hawaii as a prime example).

Who’s actually the enemy when it comes to solar?

Salt River and Solar Power

According to the Arizona Republic, the Salt River Project — the second-largest utility in Arizona — spent $1.7 million campaigning for a change in electricity rates that would punish solar power users. And in emails, the company referred to solar advocates as “the enemy”. Salt River claims the writer of that email was joking, but if they were, it only further highlights the debate in Arizona over who should expand solar power and how to do so.

SolarCity, the largest residential rooftop solar installation company in the country, is suing Salt River for antitrust violations, and Fusion states that “if even the sunniest state in the country can’t figure it out, everyone is is likely to struggle too.”

Nevada and Solar Caps

Meanwhile directly north of Arizona, U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D) remarked that the cap on how many homeowners in Nevada can provide solar power to the grid is too low. The cap is currently at three percent as part of the state’s net metering policy, and solar companies like SolarCity are lobbying to change that number.

“Every time we have a homeowner who’s able to install their own solar panels, it lessens the need for more power,” said Reid in the Las Vegas Sun. They also note that utilities have tried to limit caps or impose fees on net metering.

Who’s the Enemy?

So between lawmakers, businesses, and advocates, it seems as though utilities are the only ones against solar power on a large scale. Many consider net metering a subsidy because those without solar panels are subsidizing the customers that get the credit. Others support it, looking for a compromising solution to expand solar.

Additionally, a recent report from SolarCity says it’s getting close to installing over a gigawatt of rooftop solar this year. It beat its own forecast of 145 megawatts (installing 153 megawatts), and installations are up 87 percent from last year. It’s clear the people want solar — so how long will they have to wait before utilities in high-solar powered states work to figure out the best solution for everyone?

What do you think of Salt River versus Arizona? Or Senator Reid’s comments? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!


Image Credit: Andros via Wikimedia under a Creative Commons license

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