Utilities’ Honest Assessment of Solar in the Electricity Supply

Constellation Energy’s Senior Vice President of Green Initiatives Michael D. Smith predicts that “If we fast-forward to this conference five years from now, half of the agenda is going to be storage.”
Photovoltaic solar is now the concern of utilities and the nation’s biggest energy companies.
At the GTM solar summit in Phoenix last week, GTM CEO Scott Clavenna probed planners for insights into the industry’s future.
“We look at solar as a way to build clean generation and help our customers save money on the cost of their electricity and meet their sustainability goals,” offered power giant Constellation Energy’s Senior Vice President of Green Initiatives Michael D. Smith.
“With the RPS in California beginning in 2002 to 2003, we have a lot of wind and some biomass,” said J.C. Thomas, Regional Manager of investor-owned utility San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), who continued, “We’re now starting to see the solar roll in on a larger scale.”
With solar’s growth, Thomas said, “We are ground zero for all its effects. One of the effects we’re seeing is the significant cost shift that’s occurring once you start net metering and the other customers are picking up the tab. It’s a serious issue.” On Thomas’ concern about net metering, Barmack noted that it “takes money away from conventional generators and gives it back to load. Theft is very profitable if you can get away with it.” Calpine follows solar “pretty closely,” he added, but “until the utilities start looking much harder at the operating characteristics of some of the different types of renewable resources, geothermal will not beat PV or wind.”

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