Popularity of solar power has utilities scrambling to make up for declining revenue

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Utility companies are lobbying regulators to vote for a fixed monthly grid maintenance surcharge

April 08, 2015

This year, California regulators will vote on Pacific Gas & Electric’s proposal to reduce the number of price tiers it charges customers and add a fixed monthly grid maintenance surcharge.

The reason: The utility needs to make up declining funds to maintain infrastructure due to the increasing popularity of solar power. Opponents argue that the fixed charge will erode the cost advantages of going solar, since you can’t avoid it just by using less power from the grid. Similar battles are being fought in other states including Utah and Wisconsin.

John Farrell, a program director at the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, argues that to succeed in the future, utilities will have to act more like grid managers, connecting power from a host of sources rather than relying on power generation for much of their income.

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