Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Energy Industry Versus the Rest of Us, Again

Here's an all too typical story from the New York Times today, about the energy industry trying to make it harder for people to provide for their own energy needs, thus leaving them captives to huge corporations:

"For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops. Now, in almost panicked tones, they are fighting hard to slow the spread.

Alarmed by what they say has become an existential threat to their business, utility companies are moving to roll back government incentives aimed at promoting solar energy and other renewable sources of power. At stake, the companies say, is nothing less than the future of the American electricity industry... to hear executives tell it, such power sources could ultimately threaten traditional utilities’ ability to maintain the nation’s grid.

 “If the costs to maintain the grid are not being borne by some customers, then other customers have to bear a bigger and bigger portion,” said Steve Malnight, a vice president at Pacific Gas and Electric. “As those costs get shifted, that leads to higher and higher rates for customers who don’t take advantage of solar.”

In other words, the customers of the utility companies are obligated to provide them with a certain amount of profit.  As usual with large corporations, they have come to believe that they are entitled to screw out of us every penny they can get, but if things go a little wrong for them, we are expected to pay the price so their stockholders can continue making money.  In other words, they believe that they have a right to the same system of corporate welfare that is draining the country dry, so they do not have to have successful businesses to thrive.

"...utility executives say that when solar customers no longer pay for electricity, they also stop paying for the grid, shifting those costs to other customers. Utilities generally make their profits by making investments in infrastructure and designing customer rates to earn that money back with a guaranteed return, set on average at about 10 percent.

Utility executives call this a “death spiral.” As utilities put a heavier burden on fewer customers, it increases the appeal for them to turn their roofs over to solar panels."

You know what?  Why should we give a damn whether private companies make a profit?  They certainly don't care whether we survive or fail.  It's funny that, when it comes to impoverishing the American people to the point that they can't afford their products, it never occurs to them to worry about their profit margins, but when it comes to having to build a strong enough business to fend off legitimate competition, suddenly that is out of the question.

So, here is a first suggestion:  How about cutting the guaranteed profit that we give them, in return for their getting the right to act as monopolies, to 5%?  In a world where it is hard to make over 1% on your life savings, that seems fair to me.  And if that isn't enough for them, how about telling them that we are not going to run capitalism as a rigged game any more in this country.  Let them go belly up, and sell off the grid for pennies on the dollar to someone who can run it more cheaply.  And just let their stockholders take a bath.  That's what is supposed to happen in a capitalist society when a company can't compete. 

And then, no more government subsidies for any large corporation.  Let real capitalism take over.  If you make a bad investment, you're screwed.  If you fail to anticipate the future, you're screwed.  That's the way they want ordinary people treated; if it's good enough for us, it's good enough for them.


the yellow fringe said...

Few people can supply all their own energy day and night with PV.s. At night most are still buying energy. If you have excess for net metering in most locations the utility gets it at a lower price. I understand the grid needs to be maintained for the common good, it's the largest single machine ever built. There are new kinds of switchgear, transformers, even new kinds of wire that can operate at lower costs and deliver a far higher percent of the energy produced, which would mean higher profit for the utilities if they will make the investment. Their effort will be as you point out, delay change, higher rates, fight the new product and those that buy it. They may make it more expensive and more complex to own your own PV and net meter it, but I don't think they can turn back the wave.

Green Eagle said...

Let's hope not, Yellow Fringe.