Friday, March 1, 2013

The Dirty Side of Deregulated Energy

I've written about deregulated energy markets in a previous post.  While every deregulated state is not the same in how they run their energy programs, most often clean energy development needlessly suffers when clean energy tariffs are integrated with generation fees.
Distribution is not the same as generation--this matters to clean energy
To drill into this a little bit, we pay separate charges on our bills based on our consumption for generated energy and for the distribution of that energy to our location (there is also a flat metering charge).  Taxes and green energy tariffs are assessed on top of these fees based on the amount of energy consumed.  In a deregulated market, consumers have a choice of purchasing the generation portion of their bill from companies other than their local utility.  The local utility provides the distribution services (power line maintenance, service for power outages, billing, etc) regardless of where the power is purchased from.  This is good for consumers in that they can get the best price for their electricity and even get added value from companies like Power2Switch.

When clean energy tariffs originally went into effect, legislators associated them to generation which was logical since the clean energy fund was intended to mitigate environmental issues with coal, oil, gas, and nuclear generation plants.  As a consumer used more electricity, they would pay more into the fund to encourage better energy (seems fair to me).  Clean energy funds came about in the context of Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) which are self-imposed mandates requiring clean energy to make up a portion of total electrical generation.  With an RPS and clean energy fund, the idea is that more local clean energy systems would pop up to meet the RPS over time.
The sun is setting unnecessarily on some clean energy incentives
The wrinkle in this good plan is that with deregulated electricity, consumers pay money to companies outside of the original clean energy tariff structure for their generation so these tariffs don't get collected.  The consequence is that the funds for local solar and wind projects dry up as is happening in Illinois right now.  The easy fix is to shift the clean energy tariffs to the distribution portion of the electricity bill since that money is paid to utilities within the RPS umbrella.  Rate payers don't pay anymore on their bills than they originally would have and local clean energy gets the boost it was intended to get.

Legislation, like making sausage, is typically an ugly process.  This is a unique example of a simple fix that will have significant positive benefits for us all.  I encourage my fellow Illini to support the bill to fix the Illinois RPS.

1 comment:

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