Saturday, January 23, 2016

Wrecks -- January Something, 2016

The Disclaimer
That below the asterisks was the original post. I would ignore it. It is long and probably incorrect; I was just trying to figure out the article. While strolling our youngest granddaughter, I think I have the 30-second soundbite or the "elevator explanation."

Vermont residents who pay high electricity prices for the privilege of solar energy are simply providing a "subsidy" (called a "REC") to the big, bad utility companies in neighboring states like Massachusetts and Connecticut so they can continue burning fossil fuel.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts / Connecticut utilities are burning very, very inexpensive fossil fuel and charging their customers as if they are paying for expensive solar energy. At least that's how I see it.

I'm probably wrong. 

The Article

This is one of those intermittent energy articles that is hard to understand. This is how I read it.

If I live in Vermont, my local utility company tells me that to do my part in fighting global warming, I should buy electricity from my local utility because some of its electricity comes from the solar array it built on the edge of town.

So, if I'm a hippie-dipper bicyclist who lives in Vermont, I gladly pay a bit more for electricity, knowing that even though solar is a bit more expensive, it's well worth it: I'm doing my part to fight global warming.

To ensure the electricity you are buying  -- that solar energy -- can compete with electricity provided by coal or natural gas -- the state of Vermont grants the utility a break in taxes they would otherwise pay, let's say, a penny for each kilowatt. So everybody's happy:
  • people across the state pay their state income taxes, to include a little bit for the local utility to provide solar energy, to make it competitive it with cheap natural gas or coal
  • these grants the state pays to the utility companies are called renewable energy credits
  • the utility companies then take those renewable energy credits and sell them to utilities in other states like Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, or Minnesota who have state-mandated intermitttent energy requirements
  • let's say they sell them for two pennies for each kilowatt -- they got a tax break of one penny per kilowatt hour and now they sell those credits to a third party for two pennies
From the linked article:
The attorney general’s warning says in part, “If your solar project sells the RECs, do not make any statements or suggestions that consumers are using renewable energy from your project.”
SunCommon’s website has four alternating front pages advertising “solar at no upfront cost,” ‘’Ditch fossil fuels, invest in solar” and saying its “mission is to tear down the barriers to renewable energy.”
In a web-based ad for a community solar project in Bridport, posted in July, there was no mention that RECs would be sold out-of-state.
Since the attorney general’s warning letter last month, SunCommon has added information about RECs to its website, but it’s still on an inside page of the site, near the bottom.
The nation’s largest solar marketer, San Mateo, California-based SolarCity, promises on its website that customers can “power your home with clean energy. ... Move to a cleaner, renewable energy today.” But the contract notes that the green aspects of the power can go elsewhere.
The reason it is complicated is because the snake-oil salesman says that regardless of who pays for what, the utility is doing its part to fight global warming by installing solar panels. The RECs and the money trail are simply business sideshows.

At the end of the day, you are paying a big more for electricity to help neighboring states meet their state-mandated intermittent energy requirements.

It's interesting that the states have told the attorneys general to take action on any false advertising. I assume the natural gas and coal industries are behind this "truth in advertising."

This reminds me of the Enron scam some years ago.

I guess at the end of the day, the utilities are doing their part by providing intermittent energy to fight global warming -- "you" just aren't being told why your participation means nothing.

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