Solar Power Battery Storage Big Winner

May 6th, 2014

Consumers to be big winners in solar power battery storage

Consumers are using solar powered battery storage at a much faster pace to look after their own needs and future electric pricing. This may very well result in a reduction in electricity prices for nearly all consumers and finally competition for the utilities.

According to Giles Parkinson, this is the scenario being painted to the utilities industry by global consulting firm PwC, which says the sector is about to go an unprecedented and rapid transition as dramatic as that which affected other industries.

Sun City Solar Off Grid 300x194 Solar Power Battery Storage Big Winner

Off Grid

Electricity utilities, it says, are about to face their “Kodak moment” and the key is the emergence of rooftop solar, and its ability provide a cheap source of electricity, as well other “enabling” technologies such as solar power battery storage and smart software.

This, says Mark Coughlin, the power utilities leader for PwC, will fundamentally change the nature of the relationship between utility and the consumer. It will effectively shift the power from the utility to the customer, be they households or businesses, and will challenge the very “right to survive” of the traditional utility.

“This traditional utility model where the company controls the ‘electrons’ and the consumer has little choice is on its last legs – this model is struggling to meet customer needs,” Coughlin says.

“Once a household or a business has a solar panel on the roof or some other power source they are no longer a passive consumer.”

He says that customers are now emerging as competitors to the utilities. “In as little as the next five years consumers will exert unprecedented control over energy supply, usage, service standards and costs,” Coughlin told the Energy Networks Association conference last week.

Hence the emergence of rooftop solar, which is already cheaper than socket-power because it has no delivery costs, and which is starting to challenge some fossil fuel generation, such as rising gas costs, on generation price.

This, coupled with the emergence of battery and other storage technologies, smart meters, and other software that allows energy to be stored and delivered at lower cost on a smaller network, is challenging the traditional business model of the industry.

“Smart grids, smart meters and customer energy management ‘gadgets’ are only the beginning of what is possible,” PwC says in a new report Utility of the Future. Already we can control our home electronics and entertainment via our smart phones and tablets – why not our energy usage on a minute-by-minute basis?”

Coughlin says that these technologies – and new financing structures – will open the door to a flood of new entrants to the industry, be they telco, technology providers, financiers and systems managers, and existing utilities will also rush to form new alliances and joint ventures.

In data, this will include the likes of Google and Apple, in finance it will range from huge investors such as Warren Buffett and Macquarie Group. But PwC says it will also come from local sources. “We expect to see small crowd-funded energy companies emerge in Australia within the next three years,” it predicts.

“Customer energy contracts will greatly favor the customer – suppliers will have little choice in the matter!” the PwC report says, noting that changes to the way services are offered are likely to occur within three years.

“This will mark a major, transformational shift for both the utility sector and customers. “ And it will drive benefits to consumers. “In some cases this will see customers paying more for certainty of supply. In other cases we see the distinct possibility that costs will reduce for customers.”

PwC predicts that the retail market will turn into a “channel fight” focused on costs and choice. The retail sector could be subsumed into other large scale “retail engines” such as data providers and telcos, and other in house service providers. And there is likely to be a big turf war with the network distributor companies over who owns those assets.

“The key will be who has ownership and operational control of distributed generation assets – these will be the swing factor in who can provide the most innovative services for customers.”

Generators will struggle because of the combined impact of falling demand, and rival energy sources, such as rooftop solar. In Europe, nearly $500 billion has been wiped from the value of utility assets – primarily generators – as a result of the impact of new technologies.

“Contracting for long-term demand will become increasingly difficult as time passes given viable alternative sources of supply will almost certainly become available within 10 years,” PwC writes.


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Oklahoma Governor Fallin SB1456

April 26th, 2014

Oklahoma Governor Fallin SB1456 Executive Order Supports Solar

Excerpts from Executive Order Governor Fallin signed on April 21,2014:

All executive entities shall support all forms of energy, including both traditional fossil fuels and renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, as outlined and mandated by the Oklahoma First Energy Plan. This plan promotes wind and solar as  important forms of clean energy which have a significant place in Oklahoma power generation. An essential element of this plan is distributed generation. Senate Bill 1456 must be construed in a manner consistent with the Oklahoma First energy Plan. 

Currently approximately 350 Oklahoma individuals and businesses rely on distributed generation produced by small wind turbines and solar power generators. While these customers will not be affected by this bill, this number will grow significantly in the future. This is an exciting development and one this bill encourages.

This bill requires the Corporation Commission to conduct a transparent evaluation of distributed generation consistent with the Oklahoma First Energy Plan. The intent of this bill is to protect all Oklahoma customers and encourage all forms of Oklahoma energy use.

Further, this evaluation mandates inclusion of all stakeholders, including representatives of the solar and wind industries and utilities. Prior to implementation of any fixed charges, this bill allows the commission to consider the use of all available alternatives, including other rate forms such as increased time of use rates, minimum bills and demand charges. A proper and required examination of these and other rate forms will ensure that Oklahoma appropriately implements the Oklahoma First Energy Plan while protecting future distributed generation customers.

Signed by Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma

See Sun City Solar  on Channel 8 News! Oklahoma Utilities want to tax solar!

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Utilities Fight Against Solar Power

January 7th, 2014

Utility Companies Fight against Solar

The increased installation of residential and commercial solar power systems is causing concern among the nation’s utilities.  Utilities fear solar power may upset the traditional centralized model that has existed since the commercialization of electricity.  Through net metering, utility customers are able to drastically reduce or even entirely offset their electric bills using increasingly affordable solar power systems. As more customers choose to install solar power systems, utility revenue may decrease.  Utilities believe fewer customers will share the divided costs of grid operation and maintenance. However, solar power benefits are not considered by some utilities:

  •  Relieves strain on transmission lines especially during heavy usage in hot summer months or very cold  winters eliminating black outs and power outages
  •  Reduces transmission & distribution costs for maintenance
  • Avoids cost by delaying construction of conventional generation plants
  •  Improves reliability by increasing generation diversity

As the cost of a solar power system plummets, the number of solar power installations  increase. Since 2008 the cost of a PV module has decreased by 80%. In 2013, 30 percent more solar power systems were installed than in 2012.  A 2010 World Energy Council report predicts that in 2100, 70 percent of world energy production may come from solar energy (World Energy Council, 2010). The rapid increase in solar energy deployment threatens electric utilities’ reliance on centralized fossil fuel power plants; Graph shows utility installs in US 300x252 Utilities Fight Against Solar Powerutilities install more solar than commercial or residential customers.

In grid-connected solar power systems, excess power is provided to the grid in a process known as net metering.  In net-metered systems, utilities credit the solar system owner for surplus electric generation the solar power system feeds into the grid. The credit is applied against the power the customer consumes from the grid when the PV system is unable to meet the customer’s electrical demand.  Utility customers pay only for the “net” power they consume from the utility.  As a result of net metering, it is possible for a utility customer to consume grid power while paying the utility little to nothing. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, all public utilities are required by law to provide net metering to customers upon request (SEIA, 2013). Currently net metering policies are active in 43 states.

As utility power rates continue to increase and the cost of solar power systems continues to decrease, the cost of solar power will eventually equal the cost of grid power, and even become less expensive. Utilities rely on a top-down business model where power is produced at few, large, centralized power plants and dispersed to grid customers. This traditional model is under threat as the feasibility of power production from numerous solar power systems increases and awareness of the fragility and outdated nature of our existing distribution network is exposed by natural disasters like hurricane Sandy,  Richard Caperton of the Center for American Progress outlines a worst-case scenario he calls the “Utility Death Spiral” in which a feedback loop is established where as more customers install solar power, the cost of being grid connected increases, encouraging more ratepayers to leave the grid (Caperton, 2013).  At Sun City Solar Energy, installations of off grid and grid tie with battery backup increase substantially each year.

The writing is on the wall for US electric companies and they are well aware of the deep penetration solar has had on some other grids (see: Germany).  It is not that utilities are ‘evil’ – in fact if you were to ask any one employee of almost any utility what they thought of solar, their response would almost certainly be positive;  Sun City Solar has installed several systems on employees of utility companies. The utilities whose company culture can keep pace with the ideals of their individuals (and match the expansion of distributed generation) are well suited to participate in the evolving grid through transmission and distribution management. The organizations which can’t respond will most likely suffer the same fate as the record labels that ignored the growth of the Web.

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