SRP Proposes Unfair Fee for Solar Customers

The Salt River Project (SRP) power district announced earlier this week that customers who want to add solar power panels to their homes will be charged an extra $50 per month starting next April if the SRP governing board approves the new fee.

SRP says they need to find a way to charge those customers who generate their own solar power for the costs of maintaining the district’s power grid, because they still use it even though they’re generating much of their own electricity. They claim their average solar customer receives about $51 in “unpaid services” each month. There’s no itemized expense, however, on the monthly bills of SRP’s residential customers for these “fixed” grid costs.

SRP’s proposal also includes a provision to increase the price of its electricity by 3.9%, which would increase the average residential customer’s bill by about $4.61 per month. They say this hike is necessary to pay to help pay for the more than $1 billion they’ve spent on a new natural-gas power plant and other grid upgrades.

So, SRP is claiming they can payoff a $1 billion dollar investment by raising the bills of their residential electric customers by less than $5 a month, but they need to charge new solar customers $50 per month to help maintain their electric grid. It doesn’t pass the smell test.

So what’s the real reason SRP is proposing the solar fee? If they are truly worried about fairness, why don’t they focus on the extra grid maintenance costs created by their large commercial customers? For example, do they charge mines, factories, car dealerships, and big-box retail stores the full cost of hooking them up to the power grid? And after they hook them up, do they charge them more for grid maintenance? If not, then residential utility customers are being forced to subsidize the electrical expenses of large commercial electricity users.

The future of SRP, and all utility monopolies, is certainly threatened by the growth of dispersed solar power generation. So SRP might just be trying to postpone their inevitable obsolescence as a monopoly. But there appears to be a lot more to it than that. The argument that solar customers should pay more to help maintain the electric grid was undoubtedly spawned from some conservative think tank because it’s the same argument that Arizona Public Service Company (APS) used earlier this year when it tried to impose a $50 to $100 fee upon its solar customers. Public outcry against the APS proposal prompted the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates public utilities, to reduce the fee to just $5 per month.

The fact that about $3.7 million in dark money was spent on advertising to try and get the APS solar fee approved provides a clue about who is really behind the anti-solar campaign. There isn’t much of a paper trail about where the money came from, but the old journalistic axiom of “follow the money” can still be applied. You just have to ask who benefits from the existing structure of the power industry so much that they’re willing to spend a lot of time and money to preserve it?

SRP customers who support the growth of dispersed solar power generation still have an opportunity to stop the implementation of the new fee. The SRP power district isn’t a public utility but a quasi-municipality so it isn’t regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission. Instead, it’s run by a 14 member board that’s elected by its customers, and the board is accepting comments on the fee proposal and is expected to vote on it at their February 26 meeting.

Updates

On February 26, 2015, the SRP board voted to begin imposing an extra fee of about $50 per month on their customers who use solar panels.

Belief in Creationism is Irrational

god
Does God look like a hairy old white man?

I am bewildered when I hear people say they believe in a supreme God, the creator of all things, because they think the natural world is too complex to be the result of evolution.

Physicists tell us the size of the observable universe is about 46 billion light-years in radius. They estimate there are at least 100 to 200 billion galaxies in our universe, and maybe as many as 500 billion, each with hundreds of billions of stars. And they estimate there are 100 billion habitable Earth-like planets in our galaxy alone. The number of habitable planets in our entire universe is estimated to be 50 sextillion. (I don’t know how many a sextillion is, but it’s a lot.) Furthermore, some scientists have speculated that our universe is just one of a set of parallel universes, collectively called the multiverse.

Considering that the Earth is a tiny part of all of this, I find it very difficult to believe there’s a supreme god who looks, thinks or acts like a male human. For a supreme being to exist it would have to know everything that’s happening all of the time and continuously make an infinite number of simultaneous and interrelated decisions – which would amount to no real decisions at all. It would have to be everywhere all of the time, an integral part of everything and everyone, completely incorporated into all of existence, and couldn’t be a separate consciousness.

People who believe in creationism, also called intelligent design, don’t seem to understand how physics and evolution work. The natural world is a place of constant variation and change. The self-regulating invisible hand of “survival of the fittest” determines which life forms successfully reproduce. The life forms that exist today are the ones that have succeeded. Yes, some species are amazingly unique. But that’s because they had to evolve that way, or they wouldn’t exist.

The process of evolution applies to planetary ecosystems too. Our planet is hospitable to life, but most of the planets in the cosmos aren’t, and there’s no guarantee the environment on Earth will continue to be favorable. Human caused climate change threatens our continued existence, and there’s no god that will fix it for us.

Is The End Time Near?

apocalypse
Four Horsemen of the Biblical Apocalypse (Wikipedia)

It seems that a growing number of people believe that the biblical End Time, or the end of the world as we know it, is drawing very near. Most of these people are religious fundamentalists and politically conservative. They like to point to the abandonment of “traditional” values as proof that our society is on the road to ruin. They feel especially threatened by the legalization of gay marriage.

But it was recently announced that new research will soon be published in the Journal of Ecological Economics that identifies the primary reasons for the collapse of great civilizations throughout human history. The scientists found that the two factors which contribute the most to a society’s decline are the over exploitation of natural resources and an uneven distribution of wealth.

In regards to the over exploitation of natural resources, there is no better modern day example than the climate changes that are being caused by our continued widespread use of fossil fuels for energy production. Another example is that scientists estimate modern humans have accelerated the rate of species extinction from 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the natural rate.

As for an uneven distribution of wealth, U.S. government data shows the incomes of the top 1% of Americans grew by an average of 275% from 1979 and 2007. Furthermore, the average pre-tax income for the bottom 90% of households decreased by $900 since 1979, while it increased by over $700,000 for the top 1%. A 2012 study published in the American Sociological Review showed that the total share of the nation’s income received by the top 1% of Americans grew from 10% percent in 1981 to 23.5% 2007, an increase of 135%.

These are all issues that conservatives reject. Many of them don’t even believe in human-caused climate change, let alone support any attempts to reduce our use of fossil fuels. Instead, they mindlessly repeat Orwellian conservative think tank slogans like “The War on Coal” and call for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to promote the dirty Canadian tar sands oil industry. They also want to dismantle the Endangered Species Act. And they declare President Obama’s modest attempts to address the destruction of the middle class to be communistic wealth redistribution schemes. But the most dangerous thing might be their support of private school vouchers in the name of school choice. The public funds diverted to these types of vouchers reduce the amount of money available for public schools and will foster separate and unequal social classes within our educational system.

It’s ironic that many of the people who are convinced that our civilization is collapsing are also contributing to the things that have proven to be the most likely to cause it to happen. I think it shows that the researchers were wrong about why civilizations decline – the primary cause is ignorance.

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