Mr. Farrell, one my favorite renewable experts, quotes Rick Gilliam who says:
“[Solar is] the antithesis of the utility business model and it allows customers to really take control over their own energy future, which is something the utility doesn’t like,” said Rick Gilliam, program director for DG regulatory policy at California-based nonprofit Vote Solar. “It’s a monopoly and it wants to maintain its position as the sole provider of service.”
In response, given the circumstances, I would expect this resistance by utilities (their management and partners in government) on human nature alone. Where an uncertain change in the status quo can negatively affect the livelihood of the primary benefactors of such monopolies and their associates, there is absolutely no basic economic incentive to advance change — in this case, more energy choices such as solar. The rules are inherently stacked against disruption for more choice.
So, the solution isn’t just voting for more solar and trying to compete with utilities within their own operational framework. The real solution lays in changing the artificially imposed structure and liaison with government which controls much of the generation and distribution of energy — no small task I admit — but that is the job at hand.
Unlike participants in freer markets, where government intervenes less, where no governmental regulation ensures monopoly, where there is every incentive to please the customer — lest your doors close — utilities are just the opposite. Given these advantages, combined with the fundamental necessity of energy, there is a huge incentive not to change or improve services that would otherwise derail the gravy train. Thus, structural change in the energy market must be demanded by more persons with continued pressure supplied by distributed renewable energy technology — sort of a force-multiplier effect.
Many argue that renewables are absolutely necessary to prevent anthropogenic global warming. Even if you trust the proponents of this brand of climate change, this is still not the primary benefit of renewable energy, only a spinoff. The real benefit is that distributed renewables provide the greatest degree of freedom for individuals to potentially provide, maintain and exchange, the most basic component of living and improving one’s well-being: energy.
When you realize that literally everything that most of us do throughout the day requires energy, then you can begin to fathom the liberating effects of individuals creating clean distributed energy, not to mention less geopolitical stress and often war in securing and protecting sources of energy. On an economic level, individual energy independence and diversity are synonymous with all forms of personal liberty and accountability.
These organizational structures, whether it is utilities, or any other governmentally owned or dominated industry will neither produce the best that can be had nor the best value propositions (diversity in choice) for whatever product or service. There is simply not the ever-constant accountability, which imbues free markets (optimally governed by one rule of law applicable to all), to adequately incentivize and distinguish the most creative, efficient, sensitive and best products and services from what can otherwise be developed.
Where the disconnect occurs is that many people feel that there are exceptions for making certain products and services, and that these inconsistencies with fundamental economic rules can be ignored — in this case, personal incentive and responsibility — and yet, they still expect to be provided with ample choice and the best value. Sorry, but sustainably, that’s impossible.
By analogy, it is no different from fixing broken windows and crooked walls in a home with a failing foundation. It makes little sense to replace the windows and cosmetically fix the walls, without curing the real problem — the failed foundation — only to endure the visible symptoms once again. The same approach must be used in sustainably solving any other problem — which includes modern governance.
However, for the near term, the greater problem is retraining ourselves how to un-learn many of the fictions and half-truths that are perpetuated by either those who don’t know any better, or those with a vested interest in the “status quo” — both are dangerous.
And for that matter, our re-education applies to more than energy, but there is no better place to start , because with energy, it is literally the foundation of everything.
Note: The views expressed are solely the opinion of the author.
Conceptual and title source: Utilities Strip Consumers’ Control Over Energy Bills – Episode 36 of Local Energy Rules Podcast | John Farrell | Pulse | LinkedIn
Media source: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/utilities-strip-consumers-control-over-energy-bills-episode-farrell