"Think how shockingly stupid it is to build a 21st-century electric system based on
120 million wooden poles."
- David Crane, CEO, NRG Energy
I sometimes wonder if there was no such thing as global warming if we'd actually be farther down the road to a cleaner, more efficient, and more distributed energy system. Even if carbon dioxide weren't warming the planet, it still seems to be a wise move to pursue a smarter, more adaptive electrical grid and greater use of renewable energy.
For the past several weeks, there has been quite a bit of media coverage of Rocky Mountain Power's proposal to charge net-metered customers (those who provide electricity back to the grid using, for example, solar panels) $4.25 per month (see this Salt Lake Tribune coverage).
|Source: Salt Lake Tribune|
Homeowners with solar power are upset about this extra charge, whereas the view of Rocky Mountain power "wants to get in front of the issue now, before the system’s subsidy of them grows as more and more customers go solar." That quote really caught my attention as it basically affirms that the migration to solar might eventually have enough legs to shake up the establishment.
For homeowners interested in generating their own power or even dropping of the grid, the future seems pretty exciting. Homes, appliances, and lighting systems are becoming more efficient, solar panel costs are falling, companies like SolarCity have new approaches for stimulating home owner investment in solar, and small natural gas generators are now being developed that could provide a backup when solar isn't enough. Utah has the 7th best solar potential in the country (see map below) and, although the solar potential in the winter is more limited, it seems like Utah is one place where we could see a major transition.
There will long be a need for centralized power development and distribution, especially in high-density urban areas and for industrial applications, but perhaps we are on the cusp of a major transition in how we generate power for residential use. What do you think?