“Solar wars” are breaking out all over the world. What are being described as solar wars are taxes or charges on individuals or businesses that have solar panels fitted on their properties. In Spain the government has introduced a tax on all electricity produced by solar panels even if the power doesn’t go to the grid. To be fair systems under 10kWp are excluded. However systems of 100kWp have to donate their power for free to the grid and huge fines and inspections are there for those who try to not declare their systems.
The solar wars in the US are taking the shape of fines on people with solar panels. The latest is in Nevada but as you will see in that link solar is under pressure in most US states. Most have utilities that have tried to charge owners of such systems. In some cases the monthly charges are quite substantial, wiping out the savings from the solar system.
The reasoning behind both what is happening in the US and Spain (or at least the excuse) is that people have to pay for their systems’ contribution to the grid. Their argument is that using the grid as a battery has to be paid for. But is this really true. The evidence is mixed. Studies years ago here suggested high penetration of microgen would lessen the strain on the grid. Part of this is due to fact that fewer large power stations are needed. That said the distribution network owner in south west England and Wales has banned all new microgen recently on the basis that the grid is under strain. However, many of us think the real reasons are different. In the immortal words of Corporal Jones in a very different context “they don’t like it up them, they don’t like it up them at all”. The decentralised model threatens the utilities and they are trying to fight back. We already pay for the grid maintenance in our bills and will continue to do so but the charges in the link above are excessive. Yes the grids were not designed for decentralised energy but the kind of charges being made cannot be justified. The time is near when solar will not need subsidy and when that time comes the mother of all fights will be on. There are two reasons why the utilities cannot win this one, the first is energy storage. The Spanish tax obviously has this in its sights as well. The second is very large scale roll out means that there will be millions of angry people who are voters. Eventually the energy companies will have to embrace the new reality, becoming energy service companies rather than just energy production companies.