The loss of business for the landlines supplying our telephone service for all these years has lead to an impasse; the cost of maintaining these lines cannot be recouped from the reducing income from customers who were formerly landline customers. Now with broad-band as our key communication pathway, who needs these lines?
Well, down the road as solar developers take customers away from our traditional electric distributors, will the power lines suffer? Some of the solar companies are generating customer bases that sign contracts purchasing the power provided by the solar companies for a fixed and guaranteed price for so many years. Now comes along energy storage for the residential and commercial customers so that they no longer need a grid connection. Will the distributors suffer the same fate as the telephone landline companies? It could happen. In general, electric power consumption by residential market amounts to approximately 35% of the total electric power generated. These for-profit companies have tax advantages that are not shared with the non-profit distributors or coops. Only the investor-owned electric power utilities can take advantage of the tax benefits of solar installations leaving the non-profits to “go fish.” Imagine the financial loss of this market to your local non-profit electric power distributors and to the electric power producers? Right now it is not a problem as we are at the early stages of solar power adoption. But it will not be long before the transition to the distributed energy scenario along with the ‘smart grid.’ We will need the distributed power lines maintained for the foreseeable future, but who will pay for their upkeep? Will the cost fall on those of us connected to the grid? What about the micro-grids that are independent and of the energy being supplied by the solar companies that decide that they do not need to connect to the grid?
Those of us in TSEA are looking towards the future and believe that we must find a financial incentive for our non-profit distributors so that they can have an income stream from solar installations. We are working with other organizations to come up with a model that would guarantee the distributor a new income stream so that he can afford to install distributed resources demanded by the smart grid reducing the burden on the rest of us. Stefan Partin believes he has a model worth exploring and we may take part in a grant request to the Department of Energy to explore the financial models that will give the over 2,000 non-profit and coop providers of electric power the extra income to weather the conversion from the century old power system to the system of the future.