It’s easier and less expensive to install home solar power than you think
+ How to focus change in the energy industry
Watching the weather? It’s simpler and less expensive than you might think to add solar power to your home, reduce what you pay your energy company, and help reduce carbon emissions.
We need energy companies, but we also need to accelerate change. Advocate for 1) more competition in power generation from wind and solar power sources; 2) expanded use of solar panels on houses and commercial businesses; and 3) an economic model for the management and improvement of power distribution that benefits consumers and energy companies.
Solutions for the Underaffiliated spoke with Ned Ryan Doyle, a long-time advocate for the efficient and effective use of sustainable energy. He simplified a very complex situation for us.
Paying for Solar is Easier than you think
People are not racing to install solar panels because it seems to cost so much upfront.
But when we buy cars, we put a little money down, sign a lease or financing agreement, and three things happen. We get the car. It starts to depreciate. We usually pay for it monthly.
Installing solar panels costs around $20,000. Here are five reasons you can afford that.
There is a federal solar tax credit, which you can apply to the cost of putting in the solar power system.
Look at your energy bill and find a line that says something like “energy use charge”. Compare that to the total bill. Figure out your average monthly energy use charge and multiply it by 12. That is about how much money you will save each year.
Explore other financing options, including refinancing your home with the new amount baked into your mortgage and spread over 30 years. I bet your monthly payment doesn’t increase much.
The system lasts, so it will increase the value of your house when it’s time to sell. The new owners will never see a high energy bill.
You can disregard those warnings from the energy company and use your appliances when the sun is out!
Politics and Power
The shift to wind and solar will involve energy companies, and they are not going to change from fossil fuels without a push.
In Western North Carolina, Duke Energy and land developers killed legislation that would have allowed wind mills above 3,500 feet on commercial lands. The wind mills would not have been on public land, nor near the touristy Blue Ridge Parkway, so they wouldn’t have detracted from the natural beauty of the mountains.
But Duke Energy and developers didn’t want windmills on commercial land because they wanted future customers to build houses there.
We can find solutions in simplification.
Power generation and distribution are the two main parts of the energy business, so companies want to maximize profit, and shareholder value, from both.
The built energy distribution system of wires, connections and switches functions well. It serves a public good. Replacing it would be costly and inefficient. In North Carolina, the state utility commission regulates the amount of money Duke can charge for distribution. In other states, like California and Texas, energy companies can make money from distribution.
To enjoy the benefits of that distribution system, there should be a price we pay. One debate is about defining an approach to this that benefits consumers and keeps energy companies profitable.
The more an energy company relies on power generation for profit, the more it will fight to use energy sources it can control, like coal and natural gas, and keep out alternative sources like solar and wind that they cannot control.
That’s why energy companies are generally opposed to competing power sources. They don’t want fewer users of their energy.
But what value does burning fossil fuel create for the public? We now know it harms the public good. We know that wind and solar are better for all of us.
It seems like we need to advocate for an energy industry that serves the public good. That means advocating for:
The use of solar panels on houses and commercial businesses,
New solar and wind power companies to compete with energy companies or be added to the distribution network at a reasonable fee
A deal on an economic model for the management and improvement of power distribution that benefits consumers and energy companies.