Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Central Planning

“It is true that liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed.” – Joseph Stalin

No ideas for you!

The promise of solar energy is not vast, distant fields of solar collectors tethered to a complex, costly, aging, fragile, vulnerable, and toxic system of energy generation and transmission. The promise of solar energy is its potential to wean us from rigid dependencies, to generate clean energy in proximity to its consumption, and to help us mature towards more conscious consumption and interdependence.

If we look more carefully at Arizona’s energy mix and the Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) rules, we discover several aspects that should be even more disturbing to advocates of solar energy. That the REST rules prescribe few penalties; that there is no enforcement; that the programs are managed by the utilities themselves; and that the utilities are approved to “recover” costs for the programs from the ratepayers, are the least concerns. The utilities have long enjoyed the happy circumstance where the people of Arizona carry the greater risk.

More disconcerting is that the percentage of “distributed” energy within the total requirements of the REST rules is negligible. The REST rules define distributed energy as,

"electric generation sited at a customer premises, providing electric energy to the customer load on that site or providing wholesale capacity and energy to the local Utility Distribution Company for use by multiple customers in contiguous distribution substation service areas."

The requirements for distributed energy within the REST rules are plotted to contrast the projected portion of centralized generation with that of distributed generation:

REST centralized and distributed generation

When centralized generation is contrasted against distributed generation the centralized plan becomes apparent:

Arizona centralized and distributed generation

In the REST rules, photovoltaics fall within a broad collection of technologies under the very, very slender category of “distributed”. There is no guarantee, only “expectations”, that photovoltaic energy will supply a portion of energy for the next generation of Arizonans.

Energy policy is the design for society.

“Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?” – Joseph Stalin


  1. The population should drop off with the resession. Growth will slow and we may have a chance to make a difference from the fast dirty growth at any cost of the past.

  2. We were all raised in an environment of rapid growth and increasing consumption. Our institutions were designed to operate in and to promote such a system. It may take more than a decrease in the rate of population growth to change a cultural paradigm.