The growth of rooftop solar systems in California is causing utilities to reconsider their approaches to managing and distributing electricity. Of course, the grid systems and utility technologies were built to distribute electricity from conventional power plants. However, today more and more consumers and small businesses are taking advantage of affordable solar power systems to generate their own electricity.
These folks are more than likely still connected to the grid, so there is a new development taking place – electricity being sent back to the utilities. In other words, the flow of electricity used to be a one way street, but now its becoming a two way street.
“The anticipated volumes and the greater diversity of these distributed resources are challenging some of our key assumptions that the distribution system was built on. The power could flow the other way, and supply is now in the distribution system, which is contrary to the key assumption that we’ve done all planning in the past,” said Heather Sanders of the California Independent System Operator.
If all this information sounds like conjecture of no particular consequence, it should be noted that California now has over 200,000 rooftop solar systems, and this type of solar power is expected to continue growing. It may actually increase rapidly, but state and utility policies can either support or harm this growth.
The AB 327 Bill when it was originally written was feared to have a potential to
harm solar power expansion in California. Amendments were made later to continue supporting net metering, so that potential damage was avoided.
Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric
are all powerful utilities – so influential that the California Public Utilities Commission had to intervene to get them to integrate distributed solar power better into their long-term plans.
Utilities can be a powerful influence on state governments, but they should not be allowed to push legislation that favors themselves and does not serve the best interests of customers. California is technology leader, so it truly makes no sense for it to be hampered in any way in the development of clean energy.
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