Earlier this week, former Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers caught our attention with his EnergyBiz interview about what he’d do differently if he was starting over in the power business today:
“I’d want the solar on the rooftop. I’d want to run that. I’d want the ability to deploy new technologies that lead to productivity gains to the use of electricity in homes and businesses. I would go after the monopoly that I see weakened over the last 25 years. My goal would be to take customers away from utilities as fast as I could, because I think they’re vulnerable. Regulations will not be changed fast enough to protect them. The business model will not be changed fast enough.”
A bold assessment of the changing electricity marketplace from one who knows it best; Duke Energy is the largest electric power holding company in the United States. The bottom line is that for the first time in a century, there’s real business model innovation happening in the electricity sector. For decades we have depended on a centralized, often monopoly-based utility model that has served us fairly reliably (apart from the stuff about harming public health and global climate). But now affordable solar and other clean technologies are putting consumers in control like never before. Consumers want to lower their bills, improve reliability, and choose where their power comes from in a way that the old model doesn’t allow – and today they can and DO exercise that choice by going solar. This is exciting, game-changing stuff!
Rather than seizing opportunity and finding ways to work with their customers to meet solar demand, most utilities are digging in their heels against change – turning to regulation and law to try to stem the tide. Just tally up our blog posts on net metering attacks over last 12 months for the proof. We’ll keep pushing back to make sure utility interests don’t stand in the way of customer participation in the electricity marketplace, but it would sure be nice to see more utility leadership realize the value in embracing the rooftop solar revolution . . . ideally before retirement.
While we’re at it, here’s a selection of some of our other favorite recent statements from industry regulators who see and celebrate this sea change in the electric sector:
“I think ultimately, when all is said and done, the benefits (of net metered solar) are going to outweigh the costs substantially, both for the consumer and for the grid system itself.” – Former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff.
“I don’t know what gas prices will be in six years. But I know the sun will come up, and it’s free. It’s not owned by Georgia Power, it’s not owned by Bubba McDonald, it’s not owned by the Public Service Commission. It’s free. And to deprive people of the opportunity to take advantage of technology, to me, is wrong.” – Georgia Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald.
“As the (utility) prices rise – and they will rise, and they are rising – I think more of the public will be interested in being actively engaged in how they are using energy.” – Idaho Public Utilities Commissioner Marsha Smith.
“We are fortunate to have utilities in California that are orders of magnitude more enlightened than their brethren in the coal-loving states, although I suspect that they would still dearly like to strangle rooftop solar if they could. Modern utilities are subject to a rapidly evolving business environment, and I wonder whether some top managers at our utilities have the ability or the will to understand and control the far-flung and complex organizations they oversee. And I am very worried about our utilities’ commitment to their side of the regulatory compact.” – California Public Utilities Commissioner Mark Ferron.