Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Green (Not So) Choice Rates

Arizona Solar Green ChoiceRate Crimes has explained the machinations that defeat the value of solar energy and energy conservation in the nation’s sunniest state. Also explained is the economic shell game that hides the real costs of energy by shifting them into the captive small business sector, thereby creating hidden taxes.

If the manipulation of rate schedules does not suppress the value of solar energy enough, there is yet another, more spectacular assault: “green choice rates.”

Arizona’s largest electric utility, Arizona Public Service (APS), provides an optional rate schedule, the Green Choice Rates Total Solar Option, “for customers who want their renewable energy generated only by solar resources, but are not interested in installing a solar PV system [emphasis mine].”

Under this rate schedule, “each kWh purchased is priced at a premium of $0.166 plus tax, in addition to your normal monthly charges.”

In sunny Arizona, an investment in a supplemental, on-site solar electric energy system can realize returns equivalent to the long-term, historical average of the S&P 500. This is based on the avoided costs from the utility’s least expensive rate schedule.

The APS “Green Choice Rate Total Solar Option” asks that you pay nearly three times more for electricity gathered from the sun than for electricity generated from the burning of finite resources. If these solar surcharges were added to your avoided costs, then your returns from an investment in on-site solar energy would be as spectacular as a government bailout.

APS makes it seem as if their total solar option is for those ratepayers “not interested” in installing a solar PV system. There are many who are interested, but for a variety of reasons are unable to gain the advantages of solar energy. Renters are a large segment of such captives. Charging a toll to approach a more sustainable lifestyle is an undue burden on those who can least afford to carry it. Another effective method for repressing solar energy is to take or prevent the wealth of its advocates.

Energy gathered from the sun has lower economic and societal costs than does energy from traditional, toxic fuels. Electricity gathered from the sun should be sold at a generous discount, not with an absurd surcharge.

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