The Utilities’ Campaign Against Rooftop Solar Is Largely Failing
The electric utility and rooftop solar battle has been intensifying over the past few quarters. The conflict between these two industries is not going away anytime soon, with the largest California electric utilities recently proposing to dramatically increase the cost of grid usage for rooftop solar customers. As the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) will deliberate on this issue in a few days, the rooftop solar industry is rightfully anxious about its future. After all, California is the largest rooftop solar market by far. With that being said, the situation is far less dire for the rooftop solar industry than many believe. Companies like SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY) and Sunrun (NASDAQ:RUN) have been doing a great job of opposing the utilities’ efforts to stifle rooftop solar.
While many understandably view the increasing electric utilities’ pushback as devastating for the rooftop solar industry as it currently stands, this is likely far from being the case. In fact, the utilities have shown to possess far less clout than previously imagined. On the other hand, rooftop solar companies have shown to be extremely effective at countering the electric utilities’ campaign against rooftop solar. With regulators/commissions ruling in favor of rooftop solar in the majority of cases involving major issues like net metering, rooftop solar has staying power. It seems increasingly likely that the rooftop solar industry will ultimately win the battle against the electric utilities.
Rooftop Solar Gaining More Support and Power
Despite the fact that rooftop solar has far less financial clout than the electric utilities, support for the rooftop solar industry is considerable. With the government making a concerted effort to support distributed solar, the industry has largely been able to withstand the utilities’ pushback. In the specific case of the upcoming CPUC hearing, the rooftop solar industry has a high chance of coming out on top. Despite the fact that the three largest California electric utilities are opposing rooftop solar in the hearing, the CPUC will likely be pressured by the Jerry Brown-led government to oppose the utilities’ proposals. After all, California has embraced solar to a degree that is nearly unparalleled in the United States.
What’s more, Arizona Public Service (APS) is now requesting to withdraw its proposal to implement a $21 grid fee for rooftop solar customers. Given that APS is the largest electric utility in Arizona and one of the most vociferous opponents of rooftop solar, this is a big win for the rooftop solar industry. APS’s request to withdraw its grid fee proposal likely had much to do with the fact that two former Arizona commissioners (along with Sunrun) had filed a complaint alleging that many current commissioners have unscrupulous ties with the utilities. In fact, some of these commissioners have been accused of accepting millions of dollars from the utilities.