Utilities fighting against rooftop solar hasten their own doom

❝ Several of the big trends in clean electricity depend, in one way or another, on batteries. How fast batteries get better and cheaper will help determine how fast renewable energy grows, how fast fossil fuel power plants get shut down, and how fast the vehicle fleet electrifies.

The consulting firm McKinsey & Company recently released an analysis noting that batteries, like solar panels before them, are getting cheaper much faster than anyone expected — and the consequences for the power sector are going to be immense…

❝ As they get cheaper, batteries make sense for more commercial applications. As new markets for storage grow, demand for batteries increases. As demand increases, economies of scale kick in and batteries get cheaper. Rinse, repeat…

❝ The whole analysis is interesting, but I want to focus in on the way batteries will affect rooftop solar. Across the country, intense battles are being waged as utilities push back against the rapid spread of rooftop solar….Batteries, McKinsey reveals, are going to scramble those battles, making them effectively unwinnable for utilities. The existential crisis they hoped to avoid by slowing rooftop solar is going to slam into them twice as hard once batteries enter the picture…

❝ When a customer installs solar panels, it hurts the utility in two ways.

One, it reduces demand for utility power. Utilities generally don’t want lower demand. To justify building stuff, they need to be able to project higher demand.

Two, the more solar customers reduce their utility bills by generating their own power, the more utilities have to charge other, non-solar customers more, to cover their costs-plus-returns. This pisses the other customers off. And it incentivizes them to install solar themselves!

❝ …Because batteries allow customers to circumvent utilities’ two primary tools for slowing the spread of solar…timing will differ in different markets, but partial grid defection enabled by solar+storage will spread like a virus, starting in sunnier and more expensive areas and spreading from there. And it’s likely to happen within a decade.

❝ …For power utilities, unlike for so many other decrepit American institutions, simply clinging to the status quo is not an option. Rooftop solar can be staved off temporarily with fees and rate tweaks, but as batteries get cheaper, those strategies will stop working. More and customers are going to generate, store, and manage more and more of their own power.

The VOX article opines that the power utilities will have to come up with “other services to provide, other roles to play in the power system of the future”…and offers no suggestions. I can’t think of any either.

The Trump government continues to remove scientific data from the Web


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❝ In our latest episode of Ars Technica Live, Ars editors Annalee Newitz and Joe Mullin talked to UC Santa Cruz sociology professor Lindsey Dillon about how the Trump administration has been removing scientific and environmental data from the Web. Lindsey is part of a group called Environmental Data Governance Initiative (EDGI), which is working on ways to rescue that data and make it available to the public.

Lindsey told us how EDGI got started in November 2016, within days of the presidential election. Its founders are scientists and academics whose main goal was to make sure that researchers and citizens would continue to have access to data about the environment. They organized data rescue events around the country, where volunteers identified vulnerable climate information on websites for several government agencies, including the EPA, DOE, and even NASA. The Internet Archive helped by creating digital records of all the at-risk pages…

The Trump administration promises to cut the EPA’s budget by one third, and it has appointed Scott Pruitt to head the agency. Pruitt, who sued the EPA 14 times during his tenure as Oklahoma Attorney General, has just launched an initiative to “challenge” climate change data.

Run the video up top. Check out the discussion. The underground still functions within the most anti-science government elected by an ignorant nation – since Ronald Reagan.